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Why Study Genetics?

Are you considering an undergraduate program leading the B.S. degree in Genetics? The pages collected here provide information about the field of genetics, potential careers, the details of an undergraduate program in this genetics, and the advantages of pursuing this degree at Iowa State University.


What is Genetics?

  • Genetics is the study of heredity at multiple levels of understanding, ranging from molecules to populations. Genetics occupies a central position in modern biology, so its understanding is essential for all scholars of the life sciences. The discipline has great impact on many everyday aspects of human life. The food we eat and the clothes we wear come from organisms improved by application of genetic principles. The causes of important human diseases are being discovered, and therapies developed, based on fundamental genetic investigations. Increasingly, management of human health also depends on genetic and genomic information.  These impacts are certain to grow over the coming decades, so genetics is a growth field.

What can I do with a B.S. in Genetics from Iowa State?

  • Students with the B.S. degree find employment in the biotechnology, health, or food industries or in academic research laboratories. Many of our students pursue graduate school in genetic counseling, biomedical research, plant sciences research or professional programs. Recent graduates moving directly into employment, work as technologists and project managers for biotechnology companies such as Monsanto, Corteva Biosciences (formerly DuPont Pioneer), Neogen Genomics, Integrated DNA Technologies, NewLink Genetics, Calyxt, and Orion Genomics and in chemistry, biology, cytogenetics, and genotyping labs in hospitals and universities.

  • Completion of the B.S. in Genetics also fulfills the coursework requirements for entry into almost any health-related professional program (M.D., D.O., D.V.M., M.P.H., O.D., etc.) as well as into graduate programs leading to an M.S. or Ph.D. degree in biological sciences disciplines.

Why study Genetics at Iowa State?

  • ISU is one of only a few colleges or universities in the Midwest that offers a B.S. degree program specifically in Genetics. There are many programs available in Biology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and other biological science majors, but if you know that you have a special interest in genetics, consider the genetics program at ISU

  • Undergraduate education at ISU is very student-centered even though we are a large state university. The Genetics major offers a supportive environment for the first year experience through our very active Learning Community. This organization facilitates successful transition to university life by grouping Genetics majors in the same sections of introductory courses, providing upperclassmen peer mentors for coursework support and other advice, organizing the formalized advising process for course selection, and providing a supportive social environment for students with common interests to interact and work together towards success.

  • ISU is a major research institution with a particularly strong reputation in many aspects of genetics. Undergraduate participation in our research laboratories is highly valued. Learn more about the extensive opportunities for research including gene editing available to students as early as freshman year at ISU.word cloud genetics

  • The major was recently reviewed by an external review team of experts in the field. They issued this report: "The genetics major has a solid curriculum that appears to be designed to simultaneously meet medical school requirements and the needs of those in other career tracks. The three semester math requirement is a strength. The senior seminar is of special note, since many universities limit such experiences to honors students. Similar to the biology major, the genetics major also has a freshman learning community. We are very impressed with the career paths of genetics graduates, particularly the high proportion of students who pursue a PhD.”

  • ISU also offers majors in many other complementary life sciences such as Microbiology, Biology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Agronomy, Animal Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Horticulture. Many of these share common introductory core coursework with the Genetics major. Interested students can undertake minors or double majors, and up to 30% of Genetics majors take advantage of this opportunity.

  • Our alumni have a great record of success after leaving ISU and moving forward in their careers. Many alumni continue to partner with the program participating in informational interviews and graduate and career panels. 

  • Genetics Learning Community

What careers have been pursued by recent alumni?

  • The following link shows information about which graduate programs have accepted students with Genetics B.S. degrees from our program, the distribution of current careers of our graduating class of 2003, and individual profiles to give examples of the types of careers our recent graduates have followed:

  • Alumni Careers

Specific information for transfer students

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 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.

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.