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New Bachelor of Arts in Biology to be Offered Beginning Fall 2018


Science or the Arts? With the latest degree program announced by the College of Arts and Sciences, students can now focus on both areas of study. The new Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Biology, recently approved by the NY State Department of Education, will be available for Fall 2018 registration in April.

Peter Gergen
J. Peter Gergen

The BA in Biology will allow students to complete all the science/math requirements for medical school. It requires fewer science credits than the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Biology, instead requiring a minor in a non-overlapping, liberal arts program in the College of Arts and Sciences. The BS is a specialist degree that requires many credits in science, while the BA is an interdisciplinary degree. Generally, a BS degree requires more credits than a BA degree because a BS degree is more focused in the specific major. With the new BA in Biology degree, you can combine your science/biology major with a non-science program such as writing, anthropology, economics, or Spanish, to name only a few. This interdisciplinary experience can be valuable in a career in medicine as well as those in business, law and more.

“The BA in Biology is an opportunity for students to explore and gain skills,” says Sacha Kopp, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Out of our commitment to a broad, liberal arts education, we want even our science majors to gain breadth in other disciplines. Marrying a major in biology with complementary training in writing, a language, history, literature, or other options will both offer a well-rounded education and offer skills in the humanities, arts, and social sciences that employers and graduate programs tell us are the keys to success.”

When interviewing potential job candidates, many employers weigh a variety of skills more heavily than the actual degree, e.g. BS or BA, or choice of major. Often, it’s a candidate’s ability to write and communicate; to work in teams and in diverse cultures; and demonstrate leadership — skills that one might cultivate through an interdisciplinary minor found in the College – that tip the scale in their favor. The same often applies regarding potential admission to medical school; a well-rounded student becomes a well-rounded physician.

“From my perspective, one of the greatest advantages of the BA in Biology is the rich variety it provides to our students,” says J. Peter Gergen, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and Director of Undergraduate Biology for the last eight years. “This new degree offers additional options for the set of upper division courses on which a student chooses to concentrate, while maintaining the rigor of requiring a focused effort, whether that be a deep dive into a specific area of biology, or pursuit of a liberal arts minor. The flexibility will also help students with NY’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), and will make it much simpler for students who wish to study abroad.”

The choice of whether to pursue a BA or a BS is about what best fits individual goals. If you prefer to specialize in the sciences, the BS is likely for you. However, if you wish to explore and combine complementary skills with your science training, the BA may be an attractive option.

While this program is not yet approved for Federal Financial Aid, the College is awaiting one more certification for the degree from the Federal Government to ensure financial aid eligibility. Once financial aid certification is complete, expected prior to registration in April, courses taken towards the minor will count towards TAP, as the minor is a requirement for the BA major.

For those students interested in pursuing the BA in Bio or just want to learn more, academic advisors in Undergraduate Biology will be holding information sessions beginning this Friday, March 23. Additional dates, as well as general information about the degree and its goals, can be found on the College of Arts and Sciences website

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