Biology and Health Professions

Spring entrants considering majoring in biology or a career in the health professions, please read below regarding course selection and sequencing.

Biology Major

The biology major begins with a two-semester introductory sequence consisting of Biology 145 (or BioChem 160) in the fall and Biology 200 in the Spring.  As a spring entrant, if you wish to major in biology, we strongly recommend that you arrive on campus for spring semester having already taken a college-level introductory biology course with a laboratory.  This may be done either by taking a course at a local college or university or by having taken AP biology and scoring a 4 or above on the AP exam.  With that introductory course (with lab) completed, you should preregister for Biology 200 for your first semester at Mount Holyoke.

If you are not able to take introductory biology the fall or summer before you begin at Mount Holyoke, and do not have AP credit, we recommend that you preregister for one of the Biology 145 courses taught in the spring.  Once on campus, you may discuss with your academic advisor whether or not it is the best first course in biology for you.

Biology 145 courses fill up quickly so it is very important that you preregister on ISIS as soon as you can, and to even check back later during preregistration week in case more places have opened up.

On campus, Mount Holyoke students know to the minute when they are allowed to preregister for courses on ISIS.  If you need to move out of a Biology 145 course once you are on campus, that is generally not difficult, but getting into a Biology 145 at that point may be.

Leaving your first introductory course to the spring semester delays your progress through the major by a year, but a biology major can still be done with careful planning.

Questions? Concerns? Please contact Sarah Bacon in the Department of Biological Sciences at

Premedical and Health Professions

You may major in any subject at Mount Holyoke and still pursue a career in the health professions, whether in public health, medicine, physical therapy, nursing, pharmacy, or any other specialty.  Each career requires a certain set of prerequisite courses to be completed at the undergraduate level.  For careers in clinical medicine (that is, all of the above specialties except public health), you will need a strong background in the sciences and mathematics, as well as a demonstrated ability to write and speak English clearly and with precision.  As a rule, the different specialties have very similar requirements for first- and second-year college courses, and diverge after that point.

The course requirements for medical school and veterinary school are the most stringent of all of the specialties, so the advice given here is based on those requirements.  Medical and veterinary schools require two years (four semesters) of chemistry and one year (two semesters) each of physics, biology, mathematics, and English.  We strongly urge you to take no more than two of those courses in any one semester, especially early in your college career.

Good choices for spring entrants interested in a career in the health professions include English and/or calculus, both of which are taught in the spring.  It is in your interest to get started in chemistry as early as possible, but the first introductory course in chemistry (Chem 101) is taught only once a year, in the fall.  Plan to take it next fall.  Of course, if you have AP credit or can take chemistry before arriving at Mount Holyoke, check with our Chemistry department to see if you would be eligible to place out of Chem 101 and go directly into Chem 201 this spring.

Once you are on campus, look for an orientation session for students interested in the health professions, and be sure to add your name to the prehealth email list maintained by the Office of Pre-Health Programs.  You can also familiarize yourself with the many specialties in health and the courses required, learn more about the faculty on the Committee for Health Professions, and see how Mount Holyoke supports students interested in the health professions.

Questions? Concerns? Please contact the chair of the Committee on the Health Professions.