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About Genetics

Genetics seeks to discover the molecular basis of heritable traits. Originally, the principles of genetics were established using only a few model organisms but the development of DNA cloning, rapid and inexpensive DNA sequencing, and efficient gene editing techniques allows the study of all living organisms while blurring the lines between genetics, biochemistry, evolutionary biology, and bioinformatics.

At Iowa State University faculty in 3 different departments, (Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology - BBMB; Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology - EEOB; and Genetics, Development and Cell Biology - GDCB), administer the undergraduate Genetics major. Faculty in these and many other departments conduct basic or applied genetics research and mentor students in the Interdepartmental Genetics and Genomics Graduate Program (IG). These faculty provide undergraduates with a multidisciplinary perspective on genetics and a broad range of possibilities to become involved in genetics research.

Undergraduate Study

Iowa State University offers four-year degree programs leading to the Bachelor of Science in Genetics. Programs are offered in both the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The two degrees vary somewhat in the requirements for humanities and social sciences but career opportunities for graduates from either College are very similar. These are rigorous curricula including coursework in many aspects of biological science, bioinformatics, calculus, statistics, chemistry, physics, and communications.

Freshmen in Genetics are part of the Secret of Life Learning Community with the opportunity to enroll in sections of Biology, Chemistry, and English with other Genetics majors; to participate in special events and service learning; and to be mentored by upperclassmen, assuring a strong identification with the program.  Students are also encouraged to become active members of the Genetics Club and to take advantage of research opportunities.

A minor in genetics is also offered. 

Career Options

Graduates of the Genetics major are prepared to enter a variety of industry and academic positions in research and development including plant or animal breeding and human genetics research.  They are also qualified for admission to graduate and professional programs, the most commonly chosen being direct entrance to PhD (30%), MS (5%), and MD or DO (10%) programs.  Another 10% choose other health care professions such as veterinary medicine, genetic counseling, optometry, podiatry, physician assistant and public health.

Students are encouraged to identify career interests early in their programs of study and to engage in volunteering, leadership positions, job-shadowing, research, internships, and patient care as appropriate.  You can read more about careers chosen by our graduates and advice from alumni here.