Career Related Questions

Why choose Biology?

The Department of Biology is the hub of basic research on living systems, and its applications in environmental and medical biotechnology. We have core strengths in 6 major areas of biology:

Our department emphasizes a curriculum with active learning and ample opportunities to participate in research and co-op. Students choose biology because we offer:

  • Broad-based, interdisciplinary courses
  • Opportunity to gain hands-on experience in world-renowned scientific laboratories
  • Exciting Field Biology opportunities in Canada and around the world
  • Program flexibility – you can do a minor in any area
  • An active Undergraduate Biology Society offering academic and social activities
  • Lab courses that provide intense, hands-on experience with biological experimental design and interpretation
  • Students have the opportunity to conduct independent research under the supervision of a faculty member in their final year

What career choices are there in Biology?

Biology is a multidisciplinary field that spans Biochemistry, Chemistry, Psychology and Mathematics. Our faculty have diverse interests that span all of these areas and as a result we developed a range of streams that allow students to develop their interests fully.

Can I get into Medical School with a Biology degree?

An Honours (Biology) degree has long been recognized as excellent preparation for many professional degrees including medicine. Virtually all of the prerequisite courses for medical schools, including medicine, dentistry and optometry, are taught here at McMaster by the Department of Biology and its sister departments in the Faculty of Science.

What about other careers if I don’t get into Medicine?

There are lots of possibilities. It is a fact that most people who begin university with medical ambitions go on to other careers.  Many of our students go on to become teachers.  It is important for you to consider the types of courses that you want to teach.

But I don’t want to be a doctor or a teacher. What else can I do?

Post graduate professional schools
There is an explosion in the biotech sector that will soon need lawyers and business analysts, in addition to research scientists and technicians. Expertise in Biology is widely recognized as a valuable asset.

Many graduates obtain employment with Fisheries and Wildlife, Health Canada, and Agriculture Canada.

The Developing Biotechnology Industry
For those with an entreprenurial interest, the rapidly developing Biotech industry offers many exciting new possibilities.  Our Biology/Pharmacology Co-Op programme, which was the first Co-Op programme in the Faculty of Science, helped establish McMaster as a premier source of recruits to many new biotech companies.  This model has been so successful that other Science departments have developed Co-Op programmes.
Science Career Services here at McMaster has compiled a great website on Biology careers. This site has information on:

  • types of positions available
  • position descriptions
  • courses required for positions

Program or Course Related Questions

What are the programs offered in Biology?

The following programs are available for entry in Year 2 provided program requirements are met and space is available in the program:

  • Honours Biology
  • Honours Molecular Biology & Genetics
  • Honours Biology (Physiology Specialization)
  • Honours Biology & Environmental Science (joint program with the School of Geography and Earth Sciences)
  • Honours Biology & Mathematics (joint program with the Department of Mathematics and Statistics)
  • Honours Biology & Psychology (joint program with the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour)

The following Co-Op programs are available for entry in Year 3 provided program requirements are met and space is available in the program:

  • Honours Biology & Pharmacology Co-Op
  • Honours Molecular Biology & Genetics Co-Op

Do you offer Co-Op opportunities?

The Department has the longest standing Co-Op program at McMaster. We offer two co-op programs with three 4-month co-op terms:

  • Honours Biology and Pharmacology (5 years)
  • Honours Molecular Biology and Genetics (5 years)

Students in the Biology and Pharmacology Co-Op Program are taught in a problem-based, self-directed format. Previous students have been placed in work terms that included:

  • research and development
  • pharmacological, biochemical and toxicological studies
  • planning, design and implementation of clinical trials
  • medical information and product evaluation
  • government and corporate regulatory affairs
  • pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics

Students in the Molecular Biology and Genetics Co-Op Program are prepared to work in fields such as:

  • drug discovery and development
  • biotechnology
  • clinical research
  • brewing and viticulture
  • food regulation
  • microbiology

How do I transfer programs?

Contact the Associate Dean of Science Studies office (science@mcmaster.ca), which is located in Burke Sciences Building, Room 129.

When will I find out whether or not I will be permitted to transfer to my requested program?

You will be notified on Mosaic in mid to late May.

What courses are offered by the Department of Biology?

Please see the listing of Undergraduate Courses taught by Biology here

Who do I contact if I have questions about a course taught in Biology?

Please see the listing of Undergraduate Courses taught by Biology here. Where applicable, your Teaching Assistant (TA) or the Instructional Assistant (IA) should be your first point of contact before the Course Instructor. Where no TA or IA is listed, please contact the Course Instructor.

How do I get into a course that is full?

All Biology/Molecular Biology courses have a course capacity which cannot be exceeded.

If the course is REQUIRED for your program (and not just one from the course list which you wish to take), please contact us and we will investigate access for you.

If the course that you are interested in taking is part of a course list and you are receiving a message that the course is full, please continue to attempt to add it in the event a seat becomes available.

For all non Biology/Molecular Biology courses – please contact the Department offering the course.

How do I get a waiver of prerequisites to take a course?

Most Biology/Molecular Biology courses require that students meet the FULL prerequisites to take the course.

You may attempt to contact the instructor to seek a waiver. If approved, submit proof to biology@mcmaster.ca for electronic entry.

Please note: A waiver does not guarantee a seat in a course.

What is the difference between the Life Sciences and Biology Program?

Although you may have entered McMaster in the Life Sciences Gateway, after your first year you can choose to be in a variety of programs. Biology programs (including Discovery, Physiology, Molecular Biology and Genetics) are offered by the faculty who are researchers in the Department of Biology. Most Biology courses are taught by scientists who have active research labs, and are training undergraduate and graduate students at the bench and in the field. You will learn from experts at the leading edge of their discipline, and have the opportunity in third and fourth year to participate in their research programs and work alongside our graduate students.

Biology is about all living things – and our curriculum integrates Biology concepts and research from prokaryotes, fungi, plants, animals and humans. Our objective is to develop your skills in generating, integrating, evaluating and communicating scientific evidence and insights about the living world, to prepare you for careers in research, biotechnology, communications, and human health professions. Half of our graduates intend to enter graduate school. Medical school or other professional school is selected by 30-40% of our graduates. Only 2% select employment outside the sciences.

The Life Sciences program, offered by the School of Interdisciplinary Sciences (SIS). Life Sciences provides students with a broad perspective for problem-solving and to undertake post-graduate research in an emerging life science field.

Please visit https://www.science.mcmaster.ca/sis/home-life-sciences.html for more information.