Major: Genetics

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You may have heard of Gregor Johann Mendel. He was the monk whose research on peas led to the understanding of how organisms inherit traits from their parents. Mendel studied how certain physical traits were passed from one generation of peas to the next. This research lead to the modern scientific field of genetics.

Since his pioneering research, scientists have discovered how DNA, the genetic code that tells an organism how to work and grow, is copied from one generation and then rewritten and recombined for the next generation. If you major in genetics, you’ll look at inheritance (including hereditary diseases) and the genetic path of evolution.

Genetics is the study of how DNA is passed down from one generation to the next.

Did You Know?

Although genetics is rare as an undergraduate major, some schools offer a major in molecular biology, which is similar.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Keep up with the many new developments in this fast-growing field
  • Spend a good deal of time working in the lab
  • Conduct a lot of research
  • Build a solid foundation in chemistry, biology, and biochemistry

It Helps To Be...

Into science and technology and curious about how things work. If you like thinking about human history, nature, and evolution, you will enjoy genetics. Genetics is also a good undergraduate major if you want to go on to grad school in medicine, veterinary medicine, or biology.

College Checklist

  • Does the department focus more on preparing students for careers or grad school? Which path interests you most?
  • Will you have opportunities for undergraduate research?
  • Will you get to work closely with professors?
  • Does the department sponsor a student club or activities?
  • Will you have access to up-to-date lab and computer equipment as an undergrad?

Did You Know?

DNA code is made up of an alphabet of just four letters -- A, C, G, and T -- which stand for four chemicals: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine.

Course Spotlight

In evolutionary genetics, you’ll learn how evolution works and affects a given population. You’ll learn about Mendelian genetics, genetic variation, mutation, and genetic drift.

You’ll also explore natural selection, Darwin’s theory explaining how the environment selects for certain traits in a population. For instance, consider a species of snake in which some have red scales, while others have green scales that blend in with the surroundings. The camouflaged green snakes may not be eaten as often as the red ones, and therefore survive in greater numbers. They would then pass on their green-scale genes in greater numbers.