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Prospective Student FAQ

What colleges at Iowa State University offer the Genetics major?

Student may major in Genetics in either the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (AGLS) or in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS). Core coursework in genetics, supporting biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics and physics are essentially the same between the two colleges, however, the general education elective requirements differ. See the B.S. degree requirements from the links on the right for further detail.

In general, a student particularly interested in plant or animal genetics as applied to biotechnology or production agriculture might elect the AGLS major, whereas one interested in basic research or human genetics might elect the LAS major. Both colleges, however, prepare students broadly for a variety of careers in genetics.

Is it possible to minor in Genetics?

Yes, a minor in Genetics is available. Genetics minors are completed by taking a total of 15 credit hours of specified coursework, with at least nine of those credits not counting towards any other requirements in the major, college, or university.

    Can I double major in Genetics?

    Yes, a double major including Genetics can be completed if a student meets all of the requirements in both majors. If the second major is in a different College, students  complete the College requirements only of the primary major.  Double majors in Biology and Genetics are not allowed.

      What are the differences between a double major and a double degree?

      Two separate Bachelor's degrees are awarded when a student completes a double degree, whereas a single Bachelor's degree is awarded for a double major.  College requirements of both majors (if in different Colleges) must be met and 30 credits are needed beyond the number required for the major with the highest total credit hours. For a double degree including Genetics, at least 150 total credit hours would be required. Double degrees in Genetics and Biology are not allowed.

        What kinds of courses will I take as a Genetics major?

        Students majoring in Genetics will experience a challenging program that well prepares them for careers or further study in any life science field. A strong foundation is required in chemistry and biochemisty (3 years), physics (1 year), and calculus and statistics (1.5 years). Biological science courses include general biology, cell biology, microbiology, and upper level electives. The core genetics curriculum includes principles courses in genetics and evolutionary biology, and upper level courses in analytical genetics, molecular genetics, and evolutionary genetics.

        Laboratory courses are required as part of many of the biology, chemistry, and physics courses. Additional requirements are composition including one upper level writing course, and humanities and social science courses. A typical semester for a Genetics major will include three or four science or math courses, and one humanities or social science course.

          How long does it take to earn a B.S. degree in Genetics?

          The degree can be earned in eight semesters, with successful completion of 15 credit hours per semester. ISU makes a firm commitment that required courses will be available so that no student need delay graduation beyond four years if all courses are completed in a timely manner without drops or repetitions or delays in completing registration.

            I've heard a lot about Learning Communities. Does Genetics have a learning community?

            Yes! The learning community for Genetics students was created in the Fall of 2006. It's called 'Genetics: The Secret of Life', because scientists often think of DNA as holding the key to many questions about disease, behavior, heredity and more.

            Students are welcome to become members of more than one learning community. Genetics students often choose the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) learning community, the Multicultural Vision Program (MVP), or Advancing Citizenship Together (ACT) among others.

            If you aren't sure what learning communities are all about, or you'd simply like to learn more, please visit the following web sites:


            What if I'm a transfer student?

            During the application process the Office of Admissions will carefully evaluate your transcripts and determine which courses are direct equivalents to Iowa State's coursework. Many courses from community colleges in Iowa and neighboring states can transfer directly and be used towards the Genetics degree. Courses from four-year colleges or universities around the U.S. also can transfer easily to count towards a degree at ISU. For further information about this process please visit the "Transferring Credits" page.

              Can I use Advanced Placement Exam (AP) credit in the Genetics program?

              Yes, ISU awards credit for specific courses based on the results of AP exams taken while in high school. Depending on the score, up to two courses can be assigned for a given AP exam. Subjects that apply directly to the Genetics degree requirements are Calculus, Statistics, Physics, and Chemistry. Other AP exams may earn course credits that can be used to meet Humanities, Social Science, or other general education elective courses required by the college. For specific information please visit the following web link:


              Can I visit the ISU campus to learn about university life and the Genetics major?

              Yes! We encourage students to visit the campus whenever possible. The Office of Admissions can set up a campus visit or students can visit with their families on a designated 'Experience Iowa State' Day. Campus visits cover a wide variety of topics including housing, financial aid and many other issues of interest to new or transfer students. During this visit you can meet with Genetics faculty members and advisors to discuss the program, career options, the science of genetics, etc.


              What can I do with a Genetics Degree?

              Check out our Alumni pages to see what some recent graduates have done after graduation.