The zoology major is a gateway to the diverse areas of modern biology. The major can be tailored to prepare students for advanced study and careers in many different areas: health professions and public health; law; life sciences research in university, government, and industrial settings; education including museum, nature center, secondary school, and college teaching; biotechnology; and environmental studies.

Specialized preparation is offered in ecology, systematics, limnology, morphology, molecular biology, cellular biology, developmental biology, genetics, neurobiology, physiology, evolution, and behavior. Several possible areas, emphasizing different interests, are outlined in the requirements tab. They include ecology, evolution, and behavior; anatomy, physiology, and organismal biology; and cellular, molecular, and developmental biology. The department encourages undergraduate participation in research and offers summer research scholarships to outstanding students.

Goals of the Zoology Major

The zoology major emphasizes critical thinking and conceptual skills that come from an understanding of how scientific information is obtained and evaluated, and of how this information can be applied to societal issues. The major provides a solid foundation in genetic, cellular, physiological, ecological, and evolutionary principles, and in the related disciplines of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. As a result, the major fosters an understanding of biological complexity including the interrelationships among humans and natural systems.

The unique characteristics of the zoology major include:

  • broad-based, yet integrated training in wide-ranging areas of biology;
  • solid foundation of basic principles and processes in biology;
  • flexibility and advising needed to allow students to tailor the major to their specific goals;
  • wide range of opportunities for undergraduate involvement in independent research and senior thesis.

All students who are interested in pursuing the zoology major must schedule an appointment with the Zoology Major advisor. No major declaration forms are required to declare zoology major.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.


Mathematics Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include 6 credits in biological science; and must include 6 credits in physical science
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 86th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison


Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non-L&S-degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

Requirements for the Major

Math, Chemistry & Physics

Math—complete one:5-10
and Trigonometry
Algebra and Trigonometry
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Chemistry—complete one:5-9
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Advanced General Chemistry
Physics—complete one:8-10
General Physics
and General Physics
General Physics
and General Physics
General Physics
and General Physics
Total Credits18-29

30 credits in Biology and zoology coursework

Introductory Biology

Option 1: Introductory Biology10
Introductory Biology
and Introductory Biology
Option 2: BIOCORE—complete both:10
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Cellular Biology
and Cellular Biology Laboratory
Option 3: Animal Biology 15
Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
Total Credits5-10


Directed Studies in Zoology
Invertebrate Biology and Evolution
Invertebrate Biology and Evolution Lab
Introduction to Entomology
Biology of Microorganisms
Aquatic Invertebrate Biology
Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory
Marine Biology
Terrestrial Vertebrates: Life History and Ecology
Introduction to Human Biochemistry
Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources
Laboratory for Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources
Physiology 1
Human/Animal Relationships: Biological and Philosophical Issues
Human Anatomy Laboratory
Extinction of Species
Wetlands Ecology
Medical Entomology
Field Ecology Workshop
Topics in Biology
Introduction to Museum Studies in the Natural Sciences
Evolutionary Biology
Behavioral Ecology
Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates
Animal Behavior
Basic and Applied Insect Ecology
Primates and Us: Insights into Human Biology and Behavior
Midwestern Ecological Issues: A Case Study Approach
Behavioral Neuroscience
Laboratory in Behavioral Neuroscience
Primate Behavioral Ecology
General Ecology
Principles of Genetics
Introduction to Animal Development
Plant-Insect Interactions
Molecular Biology Techniques
Undergraduate Neurobiology Seminar
Introduction to Biochemistry
Human Biochemistry
Human Biochemistry Laboratory
Modeling Animal Landscapes
General Biochemistry I
Ecology of Fishes
Ecology of Fishes Lab
Birds of Southern Wisconsin
Tropical Herpetology
Theoretical Ecology
Invertebrate Paleontology
Genetics Laboratory
Diseases of Wildlife
Animal Communication and the Origins of Language
Laboratory in Developmental Biology
Human Cytogenetics
Principles of Landscape Ecology
Advanced Genetics
Cell Biology
Computer-based Gene and Disease/Disorder Research Lab
Colloquium in Environmental Toxicology
Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology
Comparative Physiology Laboratory
Lab Course in Neurobiology and Behavior
Biology of Mind
Neuroethology Seminar
Molecular Ecology
Development of the Nervous System
Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms
Conservation Biology
Modeling Neurodevelopmental Disease
Climate Change Ecology
Historical Ecology
Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Seminar
Internship in Ecology
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Thesis
and Senior Thesis
Directed Study
Directed Studies in Zoology
Total Credits20-25

Residence and quality of work

  • 2.000 GPA in all ZOOLOGY and major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 Upper Level major credits, taken in Residence 1
  • 15 credits in ZOOLOGY, or courses that count for the major, taken on the UW–Madison campus

Honors in the Zoology Major

To earn Honors in the Major in Zoology, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA in all courses that count toward the major
  • Complete 12 credits, taken for Honors, with individual grades of B or better. Select 6 credits from ZOOLOGY 300-680 or approved non-ZOOLOGY subject courses (above).
  • Complete ZOOLOGY 681 and ZOOLOGY 682, for a total of 6 credits.1

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Connect and describe the concepts that make up the structure and function of all living things through the principles of genetics, cellular biology, and physiology.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of life through the principles of evolution.
  3. Make connections between organisms, their habitats, and systems through the principles of ecology.
  4. Make connections between the biological sciences to humans and ecological systems and appreciate the complexity of these systems.
  5. Identify, think through, and solve a problem using quantitative reasoning and critical thinking skills.
  6. Develop an ability to plan and carry out scientific experiments by obtaining and evaluating scientific information and effectively communicating information through oral and written presentations.
  7. Understand current issues in biology and apply scientific knowledge to societal issues.
  8. Make connections between self and natural world, and personal responsibility with social issues.
  9. Develop a sense of competence in the field of study through research experiences and written and oral communication of findings.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

CHEM 103 or 1094-5CHEM 1045
MATH 112, 114, or 1713-5MATH 113 or 2173-5
Communication A13L&S Breadth3
Foreign Language (if required)3-4Social Science Breadth3
 14 14
ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  15115ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  152 (Satisfies Communication B)15
Ethnic Studies3L&S Breadth3
INTER-LS 2101Social Science Breadth3
Social Science Breadth3Elective3
 16 14
PHYSICS 103, 201, or 2074-5PHYSICS 104, 202, or 2084-5
I/A COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if required for the BS)3-5I/A COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (required for the BS)3-5
Elective3L&S Breadth3
 16 14
Elective3-4I/A ZOOLOGY3-4
L&S Breadth3Elective6
Elective3-6Social Science Breadth3
 17 15
Total Credits 120


Students are encouraged to consult with a department advisor to construct individual programs appropriate to their own needs. Please use Starfish or call 608-262-2742 to make an appointment with the zoology advisor. iBio Starfish

Directed Study

The zoology major is an excellent scaffold for students interested in an undergraduate research experience. A maximum of 10 credits of Directed Studies (ZOOLOGY 299, ZOOLOGY 698, ZOOLOGY 699), Senior Thesis (ZOOLOGY 691, ZOOLOGY 692), or Senior Honors Thesis (ZOOLOGY 681, ZOOLOGY 682) will count toward the 30 credits required for the major.

The Department of Integrative Biology offers both ZOOLOGY 299 Directed Studies in Zoology and ZOOLOGY 699 Directed Studies in Zoology. ZOOLOGY 299 is recommended for students before they have completed their introductory biology course sequence, and ZOOLOGY 699 is recommended for students who have completed their introductory biology course sequence. Directed Studies in Zoology are graded on an A to F scale. Students cannot take Directed Studies on a pass/fail basis.

Directed Studies allows students to gain experience in a wide range of research areas in biology and to learn research techniques that are not easily taught in the classroom. Such experiences allow students to make more informed decisions about their future goals and careers.

Before students can enroll in ZOOLOGY 299 or ZOOLOGY 699, they must set up an appointment with a professor/mentor of their choice, and work with the professor/mentor to:

  1. Decide the specific number of credits, and
  2. Plan the work required to earn those credits.

Such plans can involve reviewing relevant literature in the area, developing a proposal for independent research, and/or conducting an experiment in the mentor's study area.

Students interested in doing in-depth research as undergraduates in an area of interest can elect to do a Senior Thesis or Senior Honors Thesis (see below). Students should contact a department advisor at the beginning of their junior year to explore possible research areas.

Senior Thesis

Students interested in making a longer-term commitment to a research project may consider undertaking a Senior Thesis. Students should contact a department advisor during their junior year to explore possible research areas in zoology.

Zoology Senior Thesis Requirements:

  1. Approval of a department advisor, and
  2. Completion of ZOOLOGY 691 and ZOOLOGY 692, a two-semester thesis research sequence, during the senior year (6 credits).

It is recommended that candidates for the Senior Thesis take ZOOLOGY 699 during second semester junior year to prepare for the thesis.

Distinction in the Major

Upon recommendation of the department to the dean, Distinction in the Major is granted at graduation to students not earning Honors in the Major who have done superior work in the major. In addition to the requirements for a senior thesis, to graduate with Distinction in the Zoology Major, students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.300 and a GPA of 3.500 in all zoology courses in the major.


The Department of Integrative Biology encourages our majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.

Professors Hardin (chair, jdhardin@wisc.edu), Bement, Blair, Damschen, Gammie, Halloran, Ives, Lee, Newmark, Orrock, Riters, Stanley, Turner, and Vander Zanden

Associate Professors Amann and Grinblat

Assistant Professors Dugan and Sharma