Frequently Asked Questions

I am a high school student. How should I prepare for studying biology in college?

The subject area courses most important in this curriculum are Biology, Chemistry, Math, and English. It is very important to have computer skills. We encourage you to obtain hands-on research experience or volunteer in the health-related fields.

What should I do before entering college?

Courses that are recommended to take in high school are Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and math courses up to Calculus or Pre-Calculus. If your school has AP Biology, Chemistry or Calculus, please take these courses. Receiving at least a 4 on the AP exam will give you some college credits. For AP Biology, please save your lab syllabus and lab notebook or write-ups. This will determine if you receive a semester of Introductory Biology lab credit.

Are there placement exams for the Biology curriculum that I need to take at UHM?

Yes. Without passing the placement exam, students won’t be able to register for Chemistry or Calculus courses.

The most important placement exam is Chemistry. The Chemistry Placement Exam is offered in the Summer before entering the University. We encourage Chemistry 161/161L to be taken during the first semester for freshmen and/or transfer students if they haven’t taken Chemistry at their previous institution or didn’t receive Chemistry equivalency for life-science majors.

Please go to this webpage for more information on the dates and times for the Chemistry Placement Exam:

The next most important placement exam is the Math Placement Exam. All Biology degrees require either a semester or year of Calculus. This placement exam can wait until the second semester or second year. We do encourage Calculus during the first year or summer for undergraduates, but sometimes taking at least two sciences with Calculus in a semester might be too rigorous for freshmen.

Please go to this webpage for more information on the dates and times for the Math Placement Exam:

I want to transfer to UHM from another college. How much of my previous coursework, particularly in math and science can satisfy UH Manoa graduation requirements for the BA/BS in Biology?

Transfer students can search for the UH at Mānoa equivalent to the courses they have already taken here. If you can not find your classes already listed, please direct your questions to the Admissions and Records Office.

Are there any extra-curricular clubs?

Yes. There is a Biology Club for those interested in life-sciences or pre-health fields. Please visit their webpage at http://www2.hawaii.edu/~bioclub/ or email them at bioclub@hawaii.edu

There are other clubs for those interested in pre-health such as:

Where can I go for advising or help?

Please contact the Biology Program Advisor at bioadvis@hawaii.edu or call (808) 956-8303 to find more information on declaring your major or minor, deciding what courses to take, job opportunities, scheduling courses, graduation forms and more. You may visit the advisor at Dean Hall Room 2; walk-ins are allowed or you may phone or email for an appointment. Dean Hall Room 2 also has a computer resource room where you can go to do Microsoft Office tasks and/or speak to a Biology Lab Teaching Assistant.

How do I best prepare for medical school or graduate school?

Please keep a good academic record by having at least a cumulative GPA >3.5 for professional schools such as medical schools, pharmacy schools, physical therapy schools, physician assistant schools, optometry schools and veterinary schools. Certain professional schools have different criteria and a GPA >3.0 could be acceptable but is usually not often. For graduate school, a cumulative GPA >3.0 would be acceptable.

Start having a resume on hand so that you can always add more jobs, internships, volunteer jobs, extra-curricular activities to your profile. Having a resume will sometimes be required to certain professional or graduate school but you do want this also sent to the person who is writing your letter of recommendation.

Start writing on a personal statement or cover letter since this will help to not rush when the application process is going to be submitted a year before you may be accepted. This personal statement or cover letter is required by all graduate and professional schools. You should also give the personal statement or cover letter to the individual that is writing your letter of recommendation.

What job opportunities besides professional schools can I acquire when obtaining a Biology degree?

There are three major fields in Biology that you can get a career plan for with a Biology degree: Research, Technical, and Educational.

Research Biology

A research scientist can specialize in various areas of biology and could work at a university, in a government or in a private research laboratory. There are many kinds of biologists that can range to botanist, microbiologist, zoologist, biochemist, ecologist, marine or terrestrial/wildlife biologist. With an undergraduate degree, the field is narrow and we recommend getting a Masters or PhD from departments in our College of Natural Sciences or the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

If you would like to do this, we recommend working or interning through laboratories under the supervision of a UHM faculty scientist, research labs owned by UHM at Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC), Kewalo Marine Laboratory or at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) at Coconut Island or in a private research laboratory.

The job outlook for geneticists, molecular and cellular biologists is great because the field of biotechnology is growing rapidly.

Technical Biology

A technician is an individual skilled in a particular technology or working with certain equipments. Most biology technicians serve as support staff for medical or agriculture professions.

In medical technology, certain job opportunities are X-ray technician, optometry assistant, dental hygienist, medical assistant, electrocardiograph technician and respiratory therapist. Medical technologist assist in managing the lab, supervising test results and could work in a doctor’s office, veterinary clinic or conduct research.

If you would like to do this, we recommend working or interning through laboratories under the supervision of a UHM faculty scientist, research labs owned by UHM at Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC), Kewalo Marine Laboratory or at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) at Coconut Island or in a private research laboratory.

The demand for biology technicians are growing due to new techniques in gene splicing, fertility clinics, cloning and recombinant DNA

Educational Biology

Knowledge is nothing without an individual to summarize, decipher or communicate ideas to students. The best person for this job is someone who understands the science of biology well enough to explain it passionately. Good biology teachers can make complex material exciting and relevant to both basic and advanced students. Biology educators are employed as: secondary school teachers; college instructors; lecturers in parks, botanical and zoological gardens or museums; and science writers.

If you would like to do this, we recommend taking BIOL 395: Internship in Biology Teaching for a semester or year at UHM which requires being a Teaching Intern for a biology lab such as BIOL 171L, BIOL 172L, BIOL 265L or BIOL 275 Recitation. After obtaining a Biology degree, you can obtain a post-baccalaureate certificate for secondary education (PBCSE) or a Masters in Education Teaching. You would want to contact the College of Education for more information.