Biology Undergraduate Advising

Biology Undergraduate Advising Office

Amy Tappen

Amy Tappen

Biology Advisor

Office: Life Science 102
Phone: 619-594-6442

Raymond Stanley

Raymond Stanley

Biology Advisor

Office: Life Science 102
Phone: 619-594-6442.

Kevin Hovel

Kevin Hovel, Ph.D.

Director of Undergraduate Advising and Curriculum

Office: Life Science 352
Phone: 619-594-6322

Advising Appointments

In Person

Life Sciences North Office: LSN-102

E-mail Support:

Zoom Appointment:

EAB/Navigate Zoom Room


Biology Canvas Page

NOTE: Please provide your Red ID for all meetings.

Assessment & Requirements

IMPORTANT: Registration Blocks

  1. You must be admitted to the major before registering for Biology 366. Finish your major preparation courses by the 5th semester. See the Bioadvising office if this impacts your registration plans
  2. You cannot register for courses numbered Biology 450 or above until you complete certain upper division writing requirements. (See Frequently Asked Questions #8 below.)
  3. The university blocks students from repeating a course if they earned C or better the first time. There are no exceptions.
  4. SDSU blocks students from taking any course three times. If you cannot earn the grade you need after repeating a particular course, please meet with the Biology advisor immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What kind of jobs can I get with my degree?

    • Visit Career Services and register with their Aztec Career Connection service by your sophomore year. See their general information handout for Biology.
    • A brief summary of career opportunities is provided at the top of each degree checklist (download above).
    • Contact local employers that you may be interested in, and find out how often positions open up, how positions are advertised, and the relative importance of the type of degree, GPA, previous research experience and specific skills or courses. Ask if they often hire SDSU grads.
    • Schedule a meeting with the professor within Biology whose research most closely matches your interests, and get their perspective on job opportunities or graduate school.
    • For advice about graduate school in any area of Biology, get general information from the bioadvising staff.

  2. Does SDSU have a Pre-Med major? What about other health professions?

    SDSU offers degrees in Biology and Microbiology with the opportunity for emphasis in many areas. We do not have a "Pre-Med" major, but many of our majors aspire to attend medical school or other health-profession programs. Visit the Health Professions Advising Office (HPAO) for information about academic preparation in the following areas:

    • Premedical
    • Predental
    • Preveterinary
    • Prepharmacy
    • Prepodiatry
    • Preoptometry
    • Prephysician Assistant
    • Allied Health Fields

    HPAO's director, Logan Watson, has an excellent track record of assisting students with successful medical school applications.

    What is a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS)?

    A Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) is a licensed healthcare professional who performs laboratory analyses in all departments of a clinical laboratory, using samples from the human body. The analysis is performed on body fluids such as blood, urine, sputum, stool, and body fluids such as cerebrospinal, peritoneal, pericardial and synovial fluids, as well as other specimens. The CLS provides invaluable information for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of disease, using sophisticated biomedical instruments to generate accurate and reliable test results. A CLS must interpret quality assurance parameters, troubleshoot analytical instruments and develop and modify testing methods. A CLS should be detail-oriented, with good communication skills and the ability to multitask efficiently.

    Clinical Laboratory Scientists work in hospitals, private clinical labs and doctors offices, as well as research labs. Other career opportunities include working in specialty laboratories (forensics, fertility or veterinary labs), biotechnology labs, sales and marketing with biomedical supply and pharmaceutical companies, infection control (Public Health) labs. Some individuals with CLS training work with laboratory computer systems or as laboratory inspectors.

    What training and licensing is required?

    Licensure as a CLS in California requires a license from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Laboratory Field Services.

    Required coursework: The CLS license requires a Bachelor's degree with required course work to qualify for a CLS Trainee license and entry into a training internship program. Required course work for CLS licensure includes:

    • 18 semester or equivalent quarter hours of biological science
    • 16 semester or equivalent quarter hours in chemistry
    • Required courses in medical microbiology, hematology, immunology, analytical chemistry (quantitative analysis), biochemistry, physics (3 units incl. principles of light and electricity)
    • Recommended courses in parasitology, virology, mycology, clinical chemistry

    Note that these are the minimum requirements. Internship programs are highly competitive, and admission usually requires a wealth of laboratory experience, both inside and outside of university classes.

    CLS internship program: The internship is one year and includes practical laboratory training as well as didactic training in all specialty areas of a State approved medical laboratory. There are 13 training programs for the CLS Generalist License located throughout the State of California. The number of trainee positions varies at each site. Some California training sites pay a stipend. Some charge tuition. There is one program in San Diego County coordinated by the UCSD Extension Program). UCSD does not pay a stipend, but also has no tuition fee requirement. Contact information for the remainder of the CLS training programs in California can be found here.

    Requirements for each internship program are posted on their respective websites, or can be obtained by contacting them directly. Applicants must have completed all state-mandated coursework. Applicants are ranked using a variety of criteria that always include letters of recommendation and GPA. The minimum GPA varies from approximately 2.75 to 3.00 among programs. However, CLS internship training programs are highly competitive, and those students who do get accepted will almost always have higher GPAs than the posted minimum.

    Experience in an academic or clinical laboratory is highly recommended (especially clinical). Admission to internship programs is highly competitive, and lab experience will enhance your application. Having additional laboratory classes on your classes will also increase your chances of admission.

    California CLS License: After training, the candidate must pass a comprehensive national certifying examination to obtain a California CLS License. Once licensed, renewal will require 12 Continuing Education units per year.

    The SDSU Microbiology major with CLS emphasis

    All the required course work for a CLS license is currently available at SDSU. With the exception of Chemistry 251, all the necessary courses can also be used towards the requirements for our Microbiology major with CLS emphasis.

    Note that completion of the SDSU B.S. degree in Microbiology (with emphasis in CLS):

    • does not include a CLS internship training program
    • does not guarantee admission to a CLS internship training program
    • does not guarantee a California CLS License

    For more information about our program at SDSU, see the following pages:

    For more information about state licensing and internships, see the following pages:

    For health professions not listed above, visit the School of Nursing, the School of Public Health, or the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences.

  3. When should I come in for advising?  How can I make an appointment for advising?
  4. See us for advising:

    • When you need advice on which courses to take
    • When you get a C- or less in any course
    • If you have a lower division GPA < 2.7, or upper division GPA < 2.0
    • Before using course forgiveness
    • Before taking any GE course in the sciences
    • Before taking any course Credit / No Credit
    • When planning for research (Special studies: Bio 497, 499)

    Call the advising office at 619-594-6442, or email us at You may also stop by the office in 135 Life Science North for a walk-in appointment between 8:00-noon and 1:00-4:00, Monday to Friday.

  5. When should I see the university's Office of Advising and Evaluations for advising?
  6. You should see us in the Biology advising office before visiting the university's general advising office..

  7. I am doing very poorly in my courses due to major, unforeseen health or personal issues.
  8. See us in the bioadvising office as soon as possible so we can discuss your options. You should also see the list of services that is maintained by the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement.

  9. When should I repeat a course, or use course forgiveness?
  10. SDSU's rules on course forgiveness and retaking courses changed in Fall 2009. There are limits to the number of units you may repeat, and within those repeats, you can only use a subset for course forgiveness. The new rules are here. Also, you can no longer register for a course if you previously earned a C or better, and you are no longer permitted to repeat a course more than once! Note that for impaction requirements in the premajor, the Biology department may be able to interpret your repeat courses in a different manner than the university.

    Due to the complexity of these rules, see us in the bioadvising office before making any decisions about retaking a course. See us immediately if the university rules about repeating courses are preventing your progress towards graduation.

  11. How do I enter the Biology major from the premajor?
  12. See our Degree Information web page.

  13. What is the GWAR? Why do I need to complete it ASAP?
  14. You need to take a writing exam called the Writing Placement Assessment (WPA) during the same semester that you are taking your 60th unit. The dates on which you may take the WPA and additional information are listed on the web site. If you score less than a 10, you will be required to take 1 or 2 additional writing courses to meet the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). You need to earn a C or better in these writing courses!

    You will be blocked from registering for all Biology courses numbered 450 and above until you:

    1. Take the WPA and score an 8 or higher ..
    2. OR ... score a 7 or below on the WPA, and then have one of the following lower division writing courses in progress {RWS 280, RWS 281, LING 281}

    Take the WPA as soon as you are eligible! If you score a 7 or less, take RWS 280/RWS 281/LING 281 the very next semester!

  15. How do I declare a Biology minor?
  16. See our Degree Information web page.

  17. What is an emphasis?
  18. An emphasis is a formal program of study within the major that indicates specialization in a certain area of study. Essentially, an emphasis indicates the focus or concentration of your upper division electives. For example, an Emphasis in Zoology will have similar coursework to a major in Zoology at another institution. Some, but not all, students decide to declare an emphasis. See our Degree Information web page for details.

  19. What are the graduation requirements?

  20. I want to be a Biology teacher.

  21. If you wish to be a teacher, you will apply to a postbaccaleureate credential program after completing your undergraduate degree. In order to enter a credential program, you must demonstrate subject matter competency. For those wishing to be multiple subject elementary school teachers (and in some cases, middle school teachers), you will need to pass the California Subject Examination for Teachers-Multiple Subject (CSET-MS). Also see SDSU's School of Teacher Education page that summarizes Subject Matter Competency. Look at SDSU Liberal Studies web site where preparation for Elementary and Middle School teaching, and the Liberal Studies B.A. are addressed.


    If you are interested in teaching a single subject (such as biology) at the high school level:

    1. Please visit the web site for the School of Teacher Education and read through the information on their prospective student application "To Do" list. Look at the coursework required before applying, and while in the program.
    2. See one of the prosepctve student advisors in SDSU's School of Teacher Education's as soon as possible. Information about walk-in and group advising sessions can be found here.
    3. In order to enter a credential program, you will have to demonstrate subject matter competency. There are two ways to do this.
      1. The most common way to demonstrate competency is by passing the standardized California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) exams. Also see SDSU's School of Teacher Education page that summarizes Subject Matter Competency.
      2. Alternatively, you may take a defined set of SDSU courses that serve in lieu of the CSET exams. The SDSU Department of Biology has been evaluated and approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) to offer this specialized program. See the coursework advisory checklists on our degree information page for “coursework preparation for the SSTC.” Note the following:
        • There are several courses in this subject matter program that would not normally be part of the B.S. in Biology, and do not count towards your B.S. in Biology
        • Additional courses may be required in order to apply to the SSTC program, separate from those listed on Biology's SSTC coursework checklist. Those additional courses are required by the School of Teacher Education, but are unlrelated to your competency in Biology/Science.
        • Finally, note that your upper division electives for this program are very specific. Because your coursework will be different from the normal Biology degree, please review the course checklist, and then contact the Biology Advising Office as soon as you think you might be interested in the coursework alternative to the CSET.

  22. I already have a B.S. in a field other than Biology. Can I get a second Bachelor's degree at SDSU?
  23. San Diego State University is not accepting applications for second bachelor's degrees, except in nursing. UC San Diego also does not accept applications for a second bachelor's degree. In San Diego County, both CSU San Marcos and the University of San Diego appear to take second bachelor's degree students, but check with the admissions counselors at each institution for their most current policies.

  24. I am a transfer student. How can I get my courses from other colleges and universities approved for my degree at SDSU?
  25. Email or visit us in the bioadvising office so we can discuss the process with you. For almost all science courses, we will be your primary contact after you arrive on campus your first semester. You will probably not need to see a counselor from the university-wide Office of Advising and Evaluations. Many courses from California community colleges will articulate automatically with SDSU. SDSU also has established agreements to recognize some courses from other in-state and out-of-state colleges and universities. Your best source of information for SDSU transfer course agreements is the SDSU Transfer Admission Planner. That is the current database of all transfer courses that SDSU will automatically accept, and what their equivalency is.

  26. Do I need to complete all of the GE requirements?
  27. Sort of. Not exactly as written in the catalog. This is very important.

    1. Open up your General Catalog to the Graduation Requirements section near the front with the colored pages. Find IX. General Education: Part II (Foundations of Learning): A. Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning. Cross out all four sections of Part A. As a Biology major, Part A will take care of itself. Do not take any extra courses simply to complete this section. The courses listed there (or more advanced courses) are already part of your premajor. However, if you change majors, these rules will apply again.
    2. Turn the page to Part IV: Explorations of Human Experience. Read the sentences in bold. You cannot take one of the listed Biology courses to complete Part A. If you do take an upper division GE Biology course numbered Biology 300-349, that course will not count for your degree or your GE requirements.
    3. Move down two paragraphs, and see the second sentence "(Majors in the departments of astronomy, biology ...". Read this sentence carefully. It says that you have the option of substituting a different course for Part A if you want to.
    4. ... but back up a few pages to General Education: Requirements and Limitations. Note that you can only use a maximum of 7 units from a single department towards the Foundations and Explorations requirements combined.

    See the Bioadvising office for help choosing your GE courses, as well as the science and math courses.

  28. Can I get course credit for a research project with a professor?

    There are significant opportunities for our undergraduates to conduct research with an internationally recognized faculty. Within SDSU, the Department of Biology has one of the strongest research programs, with undergraduate, Master's and PhD programs in the areas of Cell and Molecular Biology, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology.

    ***Most undergraduate students may apply upper division research coursework towards their degree, and approximately half of our Biology majors participate in research projects while at SDSU.***

    Can I get course credit for a research project with a professor?

    Most Biology and Microbiology majors can apply upper division research coursework towards their degree. These courses are numbered Bio 497 and 499. In some rare cases for certain emphases, upper division research units from other departments may be used instead (summarized in the General Catalog).

    You may also take a limited number of research units as Biology 299, but these will not count towards your degree or replace any SDSU requirements. Biology 299 is "extra".

    Biology 299, 497, 499 (1-3 units per semester)

    • Biology 299, 497 and 499 are graded.
    • You may receive credit for a maximum of 9 units of courses numbered 299/499/599 across all departments at SDSU.
    • You may receive credit for a maximum of 4 units of Biology 299.
    • Off-campus projects may be approved in rare cases (see the Biology advisors).
    • You may apply up to 6 units of Biology 497/499 to the B.S. in Biology with or without an emphasis.
    • You may apply up to 6 units of Bio 497/499 to the B.S. in Microbiology.
    • You may apply up to 3 units of Bio 497/499 to the minor in Biology.
    • Special studies are generally not applicable towards the B.A. in Biology, B.A. in Microbiology, or the B.S. in Microbiology with CLS emphasis. Consult with the bioadvising office prior to starting any special studies project in these cases.
    • You may only register for Bio 497/499 if you meet the following prerequisites:
    1. Admission into the Biology major (all lower division courses completed).
    2. A minimum 2.7 GPA for Upper Division major courses (covering at least 9 UD units for the major). You may petition this grade requirement if your UD GPA is at least 2.5, but less than 2.7. Please see the Biology advising office for more information.

    If you do not meet these requirements, you may enroll in Biology 299 Special Studies, but not 497 or 499.

    Biology 490 (Undergraduate Honors Research) (one semester, 3 units)

    • Honors research projects are intended to be the third semester of upper division research in the same laboratory.
    • Prerequisites: GPA of at least 3.20, 4 or more units of Biology 497/499 completed, and approval of the Biology Advisor.
    • Consult with the bioadvising office immediately if considering Biology 490.
    • Biology 490 research students are typically treated like Master's students by their advisors, in terms of independence and research expectations. You will have a thesis committee of three faculty. At the end of the semester, you will write a thesis and present it orally (at an undergraduate research forum and/or before your committee).
    • Honors theses must be conducted with a SDSU faculty member, not off campus.
    • You do not need to be in the SDSU Honors Program to register for Biology 490. If you are in the Honors Program, Biology 490 may be used to complete your thesis requirement.
    • Biology 490 may be used as an Upper Division elective with prior approval from the Bioadvising Office.


    How do I register?

    1. Contact professors with whom you might want to do research as soon as possible. 1-2 semesters before you register for Biology 299/497/499 is not too early. You can find out about what research they do in their lab by examining their websites and meeting with them in person.
    2. Ask whether they are accepting undergraduate research students, and what the requirements are. They may only accept you if you have completed a certain course with a high grade, or if you volunteer for a small amount of time in the semester prior to starting your project.
    3. If the research sounds interesting, find out exactly what will be expected of you. How many hours per week? (Approximately 50 hours per unit, total for the semester, is typical.) Will you be trained by someone first? Will you have keys to be able to come and go at any time? What if you need some extra time to study for a midterm during one particular week? What is the exact product that you are expected to produce? What is the format and length of your final paper for this project? When is it due? How will your grade be determined?
    4. Consider carefully how the time spent on this project will balance with your other coursework, job, and extracurricular activities. If you pour 10 or 12 hours per week into this project, will your other grades suffer?
    5. Follow up with an email to your professor stating your enthusiasm for the project, and summarizing your understanding of what exactly you'll be doing during the semester. You don't want to reach the end of the semester only to find out that your expectations (perhaps based on a single 15 minute meeting at the beginning of the semester) were different than the professor's.
    6. See the Biology advising staff in LS-135 to get the necessary registration form. After you fill it out and your professor signs it, bring it back to LS-135 to get registered for the course.
    7. Your professor will submit your grade at the end of the semester.

  29. What kind of research do Biology professors conduct?
  30. You can see a brief research summary of each professor's research on the Biology Directory, and links to each professor's home page.

  31. What do I do if a course that I need is full? What does it mean to "wait list" a course?
  32. See the Registrar's Office for Information on waitlisting.

  33. Tell me about diversity at SDSU.
  34. With approximately 30,000 students from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, San Diego State University is the third largest university in California. US News and World Report (2014) ranks SDSU 20th nationally for racial and ethnic diversity, 13th nationally for bachelor’s degrees awarded to minorities (Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 2011), 49th nationally for master’s degrees awarded to minorities, and 13th nationally for bachelor's degrees conferred to Hispanics, and is a top 50 LGBT Friendly campus ( SDSU is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. More than 50% of the incoming undergraduates come from historically under-represented ethnic groups (currently 55.5% of undergraduates), and more than 5% are international students.

    As of 2015, SDSU's current six-year, full-time freshman graduation rate has increased to 66.6% (61 - 65% for students of color). These numbers exceed the national average of 59% for all four-year institutions. (The average for public institutions is 57%. For private not-for-profit institutions it is 66%, and it is only 32% in private for-profit institutions.)

    The Department of Biology serves approx. 1600 Biology and Microbiology majors, approx. 80 Biology minors, thousands of students that take Biology courses for pre-nursing and other fields, and the vast majority of SDSU non-science majors through its General Education courses. Biology offers 50-60 undergraduate courses per semester.

    As described in FAQ #16 above, our undergraduates have many opportunities to conduct research with an internationally recognized group of faculty.

  35. What resources are available to support groups that are traditionally underrepresented in scientific research?
  36. See information on numerous programs on the web site for CASA (Center for the Advancement of students in Academia).

  37. What resources are available to support military veterans and active duty military students on campus?
  38. See the San Diego State University Veterans Center web site.

  39. I am from another country. How can I come to SDSU and study Biology?

    Contact the International Student Center.

    If you are an international student, you may face significant hurdles to
    attending medical school (and other health professions schools) in the United States.

    In the health professions application process, non-U.S. citizens holding permanent residency in the U.S. (i.e., green card holders) are generally treated in the same way as U.S. citizens. Opportunities for medical education in the U.S. are not as available for non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents. Although some medical schools do allow applications from international students, few are admitted. Some may require 2 or more years of tuition to be paid in advance. Some may only accept international students from Canada.

    If you are an international student planning to earn your Bachelor's degree from SDSU and attend medical school (or other health professions schools) in the United States, please consult these resources:

  40. I plan to study abroad. How can I get credit for international courses?
  41. Contact the Study abroad program to get started. Transferring any courses that are in your premajor or major will require a meeting with the Biology Vice Chair.

  42. Can I take courses even if I am not a full-time registered student? What is Open University?
  43. Possibly. If you wish to take courses at SDSU and are not officially enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program, you may enroll in those courses through the College of Extended Study's Open University. As an "Open University student," you may not register for a particular course until the professor has verified that all regularly enrolled students have enrolled. That will limit your selection in some courses that fill early because they are small and/or heavily utilized by full time students. You can check the online schedule of classes to see the number of seats available for both this semester and past semesters, or email the course instructor to ask if they typically accommodate Open University students. Note that online registration is not available for Open University - you must obtain the instructor's signature in person. Read FAQ # 18 above for more information.

  44. I will be starting at SDSU next fall, and this seems like a lot of information to process.
  45. Please attend one of the Academic Orientation Days over summer, before classes begin (see this web site for the latest information). We will answer your questions and help you plan your courses for fall. Most importantly, you will be able to register early: the next day after the orientation!

    If you are a newly admitted freshman, you need to prepare for orientation by taking a Chemistry placement exam. The relevant information is summarized on this web site.

    If you cannot attend orientation, make sure to examine these Biology Department Advising web pages, especially the checklists above, and the university's MyMap. Come visit us in the Biology undergraduate advising office before you register, if at all possible.


Biology Undergraduate Advising Office
Life Sciences North 102
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Dr.
San Diego, CA 92182-4614
(619) 594-6442