Requirements for Biology Majors at Harvard

January 13, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Requirements for Biology Majors at Harvard

A degree in biology (also referred to as the biological sciences) can provide graduates with access to a diverse range of employment opportunities. Students at Harvard who are interested in the biological sciences have a number of distinct concentrations from which to pick. Each biology concentration has its own requirements for biology majors at Harvard to fulfill in order to graduate.

A strong foundation in biology equips students with transferable skills that may be used in a wide variety of fields. Within the larger subject of biology, the focus of each concentration is often narrowed down to a single area of study.

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In addition, the coverage of that subject in that class goes into a great deal more depth. However, students are expected to satisfy their chosen concentration requirements for biology majors at Harvard.

Does Harvard have a Good Biology Program?

Does Harvard have a good biology program? The prestigious Harvard University may be found in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is considered to be a member of the prestigious Ivy League.

There is a large variety of biological degrees available for students to choose from, and these degrees are offered by a number of distinct specialized departments. Harvard’s biological courses include:


  • The Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree is intended for industry professionals who already have several years of work experience and who want to earn their degrees on a part-time basis, either on campus or online, without interfering with their current employment. The typical student at Harvard is over the age of 30, has completed one or two years of college education in the past, and works full-time.

Molecular and Cellular Biology

  • Understanding biological processes through the examination of molecules and the ways in which they interact with one another in the context of cells and tissues is the primary objective of the MCB concentration. This emphasis brings together a wide variety of research approaches, spanning from chemistry and genetics to engineering and computer science.

Chemical and Physical Biology

  • Students who choose to concentrate on CPB put their knowledge of quantitative methods, physical ideas, and chemical fundamentals to use in the study of biology. When compared to more typical programs in the biological sciences, the CPB’s focus on quantitative, physical, and chemical methods is a substantial shift.


  • The NEURO focus demonstrates how the science behind how the nervous system controls behavior may be used in real-world settings. Concentrators study phenomena on a very wide range of scales, from molecules to societies, and draw from a wide variety of traditional academic fields for the experimental methods and theoretical frameworks necessary for their investigations.

Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology

  • Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology (HDRB) is a concentration within the field of life science that teaches students how human beings develop from a fertilized egg, how they are maintained and repaired throughout adulthood, and how they age till the end of their lives.

In order to provide students with a well-rounded education in the contemporary life sciences, they will be required to study vital biological concepts while adhering to the framework of the maturing and rejuvenating body.

A fundamental understanding of how the human organism develops and maintains itself requires foundational knowledge in life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences, which are, in turn, dependent on a fundamental knowledge of mathematics.

In other words, a real understanding of how the human organism develops and maintains itself requires foundational knowledge in all three of these fields.

Human Evolutionary Biology

  • The Human Evolutionary Biology (HEB) concentration equips students with the information and abilities necessary to study and answer issues regarding who we are, how we arrived where we are, and what sets us apart from other species.

Research in human evolutionary biology is having an increasingly significant impact on the fields of medicine, economics, linguistics, psychology, and political science. Students who concentrate on HEB learn how to apply an evolutionary perspective to the process of finding solutions to problems that occur in the real world.

Integrative Biology

  • The Integrative Biology (IB) emphasis is intended to give students the opportunity to investigate subjects across the entirety of biology, in addition to allowing students to concentrate in more depth on areas of particular interest to them.

As students prepare for careers in the life sciences and related fields and professions, the courses emphasize student learning and critical thinking and may include participation in research and field experiences. The overarching goal of the courses is to cultivate a foundation of knowledge and an appetite for lifelong learning in the students.

Biomedical Engineering

  • Biomedical engineering is situated at the confluence of the physical sciences and the life sciences. It utilizes concepts from physics and chemistry in order to comprehend how living systems function. A highly quantitative approach is taken, similar to that taken in other engineering subfields.

Mathematical analysis and modeling are utilized in order to understand how different scales of systems, ranging from the subcellular to the organismal, work. Within the context of a liberal arts education, one of the goals of this specialization is to provide students with a strong foundation in engineering, particularly as it relates to the application of engineering to the life sciences.

What are the Requirements for Biology Majors at Harvard?

What are the requirements for biology majors at Harvard? Every candidate for a degree needs to demonstrate that they have met all of the prerequisites for either one of the recognized fields of specialization, an accepted joint concentration, or an approved unique concentration.

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Students have the option, depending on the emphasis they choose, of either pursuing a basic curriculum or one that qualifies them for honors in their subject. The following is a list of some of the requirements for Biology Majors at Harvard.


128 credits, or 32 courses that are each worth 4 credits, are needed to earn a Bachelor of Liberal Arts (ALB) degree. You are allowed to transfer a maximum of sixty-four credits.


32 credits in your concentration or field of study taken at Harvard (Credits taken either on campus or online at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School.)

24-credit distribution requirement:

  • 8 credits in humanities
  • 8 credits in science
  • 8 credits in social sciences

12 expository and/or speech credits, taken at Harvard

  • EXPO 15 is recommended (can’t be taken after EXPO 25)
  • EXPO 25 required
  • A maximum of one speech course (optional)

8 foreign language credits

4 quantitative reasoning (math) credits, taken at Harvard

4 moral reasoning (ethics) credits, taken at Harvard

52 credits taken with Harvard instructors

60 credits of upper-level coursework

Molecular and Cellular Biology

Students will get the chance to study many of the problems that are at the forefront of modern biology and medicine through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on research. The specifications for the MCB concentration are outlined in the table that may be seen below.


Foundational courses

  • 2 half courses (LS 1a (or LPS A) and LS 1b)

Intermediate biology

  • 2 half courses (MCB 60 AND MCB 63, 65, 66, 68, or 80)

Upper level biology

  • 2 half courses (2 courses, at least one of which must be an MCB 100-level course.)

Many upper level STEM courses can fulfill this requirement.  You can check whether a course meets this requirement by speaking with an advisor during advising conversations or by emailing an advisor the course name/syllabus for confirmation.


  • 1 General chemistry (General chemistry: PS1, PS10, PS11, or Chem 40)
  • 1 Organic chemistry (Organic chemistry: Chem 17 or Chem 20)

Math and computation

  • 1 or 2 half-courses (Math 19a (or higher) or Statistics 110 or Statistics 111) or ( Math 1b and Math 19a or Statistics 102 or CS50 (or higher))


  • 1 half course in mechanics ( PS2, PS12a, Physics 15a or 16, or Applied Physics 50a)
  • 1 half course in electricity and magnetism ( PS3, PS12b, Physics 15b or Applied Physics 50b)


  • 1+ Advanced ( 1 additional advanced/upper level course) One semester of MCB 99 (thesis research) counts as one of the 3 advanced courses required for honors eligibility.
  • 1+ Organic Chemistry ( 1 additional organic chemistry (Chem 27 or 30))
  • Thesis (Required for highest honors eligibility)

Chemical and Physical Biology

In subjects as varied as engineering, biology, and mathematics, graduates of CPB will be able to enhance the conventional toolbox of biological methods with breakthroughs in chemical and physical methods that have been developed in recent years.


Foundational courses

  • 2 half courses ( LS 1a (or LPS A) AND LS 1b)

Intermediate biology

  • 2 half courses ( MCB 60 AND MCB 63, 65, 66, 68, or 80)

General or Inorganic Chemistry

  • 1 half course (PS1, PS10, PS11, Chem 40, or Chem 160)

Physical Chemistry

  • 1 half course ( MCB 65, MCB 199, CHEM 60, or CHEM 161) MCB 65 cannot double-count as both an intermediate biology course and as a physical chemistry course

Organic Chemistry

  • 2 half courses (Chem 17 AND Chem 27 or Chem 20 AND Chem 30)


  • 1 full course ( Math 19a AND 19b or Math 21a AND Math 21b or Applied Math 21a AND Applied Math 21b)


  • 1 half course in mechanics (PS 2, PS 12a, Physics 15a or 16, or Applied Physics 50a ) Students who do not take at least one course at the level of Physics 15 or 16 or Physical Science 12 must take a computational course as one of the upper level courses chosen from CS 50 or 109; Applied Math 111, 115 or 126; MCB 111, 112, 131, or 199; or other computational class approved by the Head Tutor.
  • 1 half course in electricity and magnetism (PS 3, PS 12b, Physics 15b, or Applied Physics 50b )

Upper level natural sciences

  • 3 half courses (3 courses in the natural sciences, engineering, and/or math (e.g., 100-level CHEM, MCB, or Physics))

Many upper level STEM courses can fulfill this requirement.  You can check whether a course meets this requirement by speaking with an advisor during advising conversations or by emailing an advisor the course name/syllabus for confirmation.


  • 1 semester (At least one upper level project lab course chosen from LS 100, CHEM 100, CPB 91, and CPB 99.)

What is the Average GPA for Biology Majors?

What is the average GPA for biology majors? A biology major at Harvard needs anything from a 3.02 to a 3.3 grade point average to be successful. Many graduate schools have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 to 3.5, and many students aim to have a GPA of at least 3.0.

According to the information provided on the website of Harvard University, as one of the requirements for Biology Majors at Harvard, you are expected to obtain a grade of B or higher in each of the three degree courses that are necessary for admission, as well as a grade of B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your overall grade point average must remain above 3.0.

A woman talking to a student in a library.

You are permitted to have a total of two withdrawal grades (WD), and those grades will not factor into your overall grade point average. Any further WD grades will have no impact on the overall calculation of your grade point average.

You are not allowed to retake a class in order to raise your grade point average or satisfy a prerequisite for the degree (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). You cannot receive graduate credit for retaking a course that you have already finished at Harvard, even if you want to.

In addition to the student’s GPA, the student must also submit their GRE scores, which must total 151 for the verbal section, 152 for the quantitative section, and 3.6 for the analytical writing section. The range of possible ACT composite scores is from 29 to 33, whereas the range of possible SAT composite scores is from 1360 to 1480.

How Hard is it to get into Harvard?

How hard is it to get into Harvard? The current leader in terms of the most competitive admissions process is Harvard University, which has a record-low acceptance rate of only 3.19% for the class of 2026. This rate indicates acceptance into Harvard College, the undergraduate institution at the Ivy League university.

When determining who will be admitted to Harvard, the school looks at each applicant as a whole person, taking into account both their character and their intellectual abilities.

The institution makes a concentrated effort to provide serious consideration to each application in order to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the academic pursuits, personal experiences, and extracurricular abilities of prospective students.

Students listening in front of the class.

When searching for exceptional applicants, admissions staff place a significant amount of weight on letters of recommendation, college interviews, and extracurricular activities.

Want to learn more about the requirements for biology majors at Harvard? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college. Contact us today for more information on our services.

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