Frequently Asked Questions

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

We encourage a wide breadth of knowledge for biology students, however, the biology curriculum will lean heavily on Biology, Chemistry, Math and Writing skills.  Depending on the career path you choose, it may also make sense to begin looking into volunteering or working at a research lab, or health clinic.

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, it may be beneficial take these courses. Receiving at least a 4 on the AP Biology exam will give you some college credits, whether you receive college credit or not depends both on the score as well as the class. 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. 

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 Manoa equivalent to the courses they have already taken at their previous college.  You can check out the transfer credit database here.  If you have any questions, please direct them to the Office of Admissions.

It is important to remember that an evaluation of transfer credits (for individual courses taken elsewhere) will be undertaken at UH only after a student has been admitted to a program leading to a degree and has confirmed his or her intention to enroll.

The Office of Admissions will contact you to let you know what you need to do to transfer courses to UH Manoa.  Please note that the content of a course taken elsewhere can only be assesed with a detailed course syllabus that includes a list of lecture topics, as well as contact information for th einstructor that taught the course at your current institution.  Save other course materials, such as exams and assignments, that might be useful in determining the eligibility of a potential transferring course.

Students must receive a grade of C or better in order for courses that apply toward their major.

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 or email them at

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

Where can I go for advising or help?

Please contact the Biology Department Advisors at or call (808) 956-5911 to find more information about declaring your major or minor, deciding what courses to take, job opportunities, scheduling courses, graduation forms, and more. You can schedule an appointment via phone, email, or online at  The Department Advisors are located at Sinclair Library 301; walk-ins are not allowed.

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

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

For graduate school, a cumulative GPA of >3.0 could be acceptable.

Have a resume on hand so that you can constantly add  jobs, internships, volunteer work, and extra-curricular activities to your profile. Having a resume will sometimes be required for certain professional or graduate schools, and you will also want to send this to the person who is writing your letter of recommendation.

Start writing a personal statement or cover letter, since this will help alleviate the rush when the application process is going on.  Often the application process occurs a year before getting 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?

Three major fields to look out for with a Biology degree are: Research, Technical, and Educational.

Research Biology

A research scientist could work at a university, in a government organization, or in a private research laboratory. There are many kinds of reaserch biologists, including botanists, microbiologists, zoologists, biochemists, ecologists, and marine or terrestrial wildlife biologists. If you wish to continue into research, we recommend getting a Masters or PhD from departments in our College of Natural Sciences or the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.  This will open up more opportunities, and allow you to move up in job position.

If you would like to do this, we recommend working or interning in 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 specific equipment. Most biology technicians serve as support staff for medical or agricultural professions.

In medical technology, job opportunities include X-ray technician, optometry assistant, dental hygienist, medical assistant, electrocardiograph technician and respiratory therapist. Medical technologists assist in managing the lab, and supervising test results.  They 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

Education is a surprisingly wide field of different jobs and positions.  Becoming a teacher isn't the only possible profession for one interested in education. In fact, 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.  This course 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 can contact the College of Education for more information.