Why study biology at UC Santa Cruz?

If you want to be a part of the exciting new era of tech and big data in biology to improve the quality of human life and preserve biodiversity, UC Santa Cruz is for you. Here you’ll study alongside world-leading experts using world-leading tools and techniques to unlock biological phenomena—such as embryonic development, cell growth, brain function, and ecosystem dynamics—that once seemed like unsolvable mysteries.

Research access

When you declare the Biology B.S. or B.A. major at UC Santa Cruz, you’ll have unparalleled access to research laboratories and natural reserves, hands-on training with state-of-the-art equipment, mentorship from renowned faculty and researchers, and crucial résumé-boosting research experiences. Unique student experiences include:

Research mentorship

Research facilities

Research courses

Current research and course offerings include the latest in RNA molecular biology, molecular and cellular aspects of genetics and developmental biology, neurobiology, microbial biochemistry, plant biology, animal behavior, physiology, evolution, ecology, and marine biology. Explore current course offerings in:

Career advancement

The most telling success metrics for our biology degree program are the quality of the students we attract and—more importantly—the professional success they achieve after they graduate. Biology at UC Santa Cruz is proven to give you:

  • A strong interdisciplinary research network
  • Mentorship by internationally distinguished faculty and researchers
  • Involvement with large research projects, both government and private
  • The latest high-impact research, field work, and instrumentation knowledge
  • Project management and leadership skills, in the lab and out in the field
  • Next-level science communications skills
  • Minimal to no debt

First job success

Our Biology B.S. or B.A. should be your choice if you’re looking to get a job in biomedical, environmental, or health and clinical services immediately after graduation. UC Santa Cruz ranks 9th in the nation for “highly paid biology and anatomical sciences graduates.” Almost one-half of our undergraduates are employed within six months after graduation, and 30 percent receive multiple job offers (data from 2015). High-performing students who decide to delay graduate school and work in California report annual earnings of $73,467 within five years after graduation (data as of 2015).

Graduate school success

We’re also ambitious: 79 percent of our Biology B.S. and B.A. graduates plan to pursue graduate school within five years after graduation—with a large majority pursuing biomedical sciences and health professions (data from 2015).

Funding opportunity

In addition to being highly employable and competitive graduate school candidates, our students graduate with minimal debt. UC Santa Cruz is the second-best university in the nation for undergraduate social mobility, including financial support for students who come from households that earn less than $50,000 annually. We strongly encourage and support all our students in the process of securing academic scholarships and research funding. As a result, our students receive many distinguished awards, honors, and accolades.

A few of our undergraduate funding opportunities for biology majors include:

  • Arctic Field Science Scholarships
  • Friends of Seymour Marine Discovery Center Student Research & Education Award
  • Gordon Smith Memorial Scholarship
  • Kathryn D. Sullivan Award in Earth & Marine Sciences
  • Kenneth & Ann Thimann Scholarship

Alumni network

Banana Slugs help each other out. Get connected with 12,500+ biology alumni who hold leading positions at universities, private companies, medical institutes, government agencies, and renowned research centers throughout the world. Here are a few of our notable alumni:


William James Kent
Mapped the human genome and created the UCSC Genome Browser, an open-source tool now used by biomedical researchers throughout the world (Kresge ’81, B.A. Mathematics; M.A. ’86, Mathematics; Ph.D. ’02, Biology)

Michael Wilson
Pioneer in the emerging field of sustainable or “green” chemistry (Stevenson ’84, B.A. Biology)


Julie Packard
Founder and executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Crown ’74, B.A. Biology; M.A. ’78)

Cheryl Scott
Award-winning medical epidemiologist and former director of the CDC operations in Tanzania (Oakes ’74, B.S. Biology)


Shannon Brownlee
Groundbreaking researcher and writer on health care and policy (College Eight ’79, B.S. Biology; M.S. ’83, Marine Sciences)

Laurie Garrett
Pulitzer Prize winner for reporting from Zaire on the 1996 Ebola virus outbreak (Merrill ’75, B.A. Biology)

Richard Harris
Award-winning NPR science journalist (Crown ’80, B.S. Biology)

M. Sanjayan
Emmy nominee and science documentary and news host for CBS, PBS, BBC, Vox, and Discovery (Ph.D. ’97, Biology)

Alumni resources

Alumni in the news

UC Santa Cruz Alumni Network

Stay in touch with the ImpactReport

Current Students

How to apply

Undergraduate student admissions to UC Santa Cruz are handled through the University of California’s online application system. Be sure to review the steps you must take, and when, to ensure that your application is considered.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree policies

Department: Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology
Program size: ~180 students

If you’re interested in improving the quality of human life and preserving habitats and biodiversity, our Biology B.S. is for you. The undergraduate major is comprehensive, hands-on, and intellectually rich. As a student, you’ll benefit from well-equipped laboratories, extensive independent research opportunities, and course offerings that integrate biochemistry, genetics, evolutionary biology, cell biology, developmental biology, physiology, and ecology.

Advising for Biology B.S.


Bachelor of Art (B.A.) degree policies

Department: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Program size: ~180 students

Our Biology B.A. keeps course requirements to a minimum so that you can maximize your undergraduate education in custom fashion. The B.A. allows you the flexibility to pursue a double major, concentrate on your own interests within the biology discipline, or complete major requirements late in your college career.

Advising for Biology B.A.


How to apply

Undergraduate student admissions to UC Santa Cruz are handled through the University of California’s online application system. Be sure to review the steps you must take, and when, to ensure that your application is considered.

Minor (Min.) degree policies

Department: Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology

If you wish to gain a strong knowledge base that blends elements of ecology & evolutionary biology and molecular, cell & developmental biology together while also majoring in another area of study during your time at UC Santa Cruz, we recommend exploring our Biology Minor program.

View requirements
How to declare

If you would like to declare the Biology Minor, follow these steps:

  1. Complete your Academic Planning Form.
  2. Complete your Petition for Declaration of Major/Minor Form.
  3. Get both forms approved and signed by your primary major adviser.
  4. Make an appointment through Slug Success to meet with a Biology Minor adviser. Bring both signed forms to your appointment. Our advisers will help you update your academic plan to include your minor courses.

Once you have declared the minor, your primary major adviser and minor adviser will review your academic plan on a quarter-by-quarter basis to ensure that you complete the minor program following degree requirements and time-to-degree guidelines.