Undergraduate Concentrations

The Biological Sciences Department offers five concentration areas for undergraduates, each targeted to a different career path. Scroll down to browse through our concentrations or use the skip links to jump straight to a concentration's description.


Anatomy and Physiology
Marine Biology & Conservation
Molecular & Cellular Biology

Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation


Anatomy classroom

Anatomy and Physiology

This concentration offers courses required for students preparing for a career in medicine and health: physicians, dentists, physician assistants, nurses, dental assistants and more. It emphasizes learning and discoveries about the structure and function of animal and human bodies.

This concentration offers classes and lab experiences usually reserved for first-year medical students. Chief among those is the ability to work with human cadavers - a rare offering in undergraduate programs. Because of this, our graduates who are accepted to medical schools report that they start their studies ahead of classmates from almost every other university -- even the Ivy Leagues.

The concentration is ideal for students intending to apply to medical school, nursing school, dental school, or associated health career graduate programs.


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Class in Coastal Hills


The study of ecology spans a wide breadth of habitats, from terrestrial to marine, and multiple scales of organization, from microbial interactions to global processes. The ecology concentration allows students the flexibility to design a program to fit their interests and career goals.

The concentration emphasizes collection and analysis of data to better understand the factors that impact the distribution and abundance of organisms. In many contexts, these results are used to identify and solve environmental problems.

Graduates from the ecology concentration are prepared to pursue careers in education, ecological consulting, ecological planning or coordination, habitat restoration, or environmental law.

Read more about getting professional certification ›

Learn more about the Ecological Society of America ›

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Students on a boat

Marine Biology and Conservation

Please note: This concentration is last available during the AY 2015-2016. Students interested in Marine Sciences after that should pursue the new Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Sciences that will begin to be offered in the Fall of 2016

This concentration prepares students for advanced training or professional employment in public or private agencies concerned with marine sciences, freshwater ecology, fisheries biology, fisheries management, or related fields.

By selecting the appropriate electives, students in this concentration can graduate well-prepared to apply for professional certification as a Fisheries Biologist by the American Fisheries Society.

While at Cal Poly, students in the concentration can participate in a wide variety of faculty-led research projects through the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences and the SLOSEA initiative. Research includes industry-sponsored projects seeking to determine biologically-friendly boat coatings that will still repel marine creatures and grant-funded projects, including studies of the local fish populations and their numbers, invasive species in local oceans, coastal current monitoring, and more.

Read more about marine research projects ›

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Student with culture dish

Molecular and Cellular Biology

This concentration is designed for students who are interested in how genes and their products work to create cellular structures, activities, and interactions in organisms ranging from microbes to plants and animals.

The concentration builds on our diverse biological sciences curriculum with additional laboratory courses in nucleic acid and protein techniques, bioinformatics, industrial microbiology, immunology, virology, and plant biotechnology.

It provides students with an understanding of molecular and cellular biology -- a cornerstone for most biotechnology, medical, and pharmaceutical industry careers. And it also prepares students for graduate or professional study in biology, microbiology, biochemistry, many of the health professions, and other related fields.

(Note: students in this concentration are not eligible to enroll in the Biotechnology Minor program.)


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Professor Taylor with students and a rattlesnake

Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation

Wildlife biologists understand and study the factors that affect the distribution and abundance of terrestrial plants and animals.

This concentration emphasizes identification of organisms in the field and conceptually understanding their community structure.

It also prepares students for graduate school or for professional employment in public or private agencies dealing with field inventories of biological diversity, abundance, and distribution. Students in this concentration have access to a wealth of incredibly diverse Central Coast habitats and opportunities to participate in faculty-led research projects in spots around the nation and abroad.

Graduates may pursue careers as field biologists, outdoor educators, park naturalists, biological resource scientists, biology teachers, environmental consultants, or wildlife conservation biologists.

Read more about the study sites ›

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