The 15 Best CSU Schools for Biology and Pre-Med Ranked

best CSU schools for biology and pre med majors including SDSU and SJSU

The best CSU schools for biology and pre-med include a handful of respected pre-med schools. Outside of those, you can absolutely get into medical school from a lesser-known Cal State school. However, a good MCAT score and GPA will be critical factors in your medical school application.

The University of California schools are generally more selective and rigorous while still offering reasonable in-state tuition. You can find our rankings of the best UC schools for biology and pre-med right here.

If you’re still deciding on a major, we’ve also reviewed Cal State schools in other related majors:

All right, let’s jump in and review the best CSU schools for biology and pre-med students.

Best CSU Schools for Psychology

There are 23 CSU colleges, and Cal Maritime is the only one not to offer a biology degree.

Like psychology, biology or biological sciences is a very common major that almost every school will have a developed program in. Even our honorable mention schools outside the top 15 can give you a solid education.

With the right GPA, MCAT, and extracurriculars, you can get into medical school from any CSU school.

With that said, we’ll start with the 7 schools that didn’t crack our 15 best CSU schools for biology and pre-med, and then begin the countdown.

California State University Dominguez Hills

California State University East Bay

California State University San Bernardino

California State University Bakersfield

California State University Stanislaus

California State University Northridge

Cal Poly Humboldt

15. California State University Channel Islands

CSUCI keeps it simple in biology, offering just the basic biology degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Biology

14. California State University San Marcos

The CSUSM biology major includes multiple concentrations within ecology, molecular and cellular biology, and physiology.

CSUSM’s Health Careers Resources center provides helpful guidance to pre-med students in various majors at the university.

13. California State University Fresno

CSU Fresno offers a biology honors program and has a pre-med advising and medical resources center.

As there isn’t any one major that pre-med students should take, the advising center offers a central hub that’s really useful for undergraduate students.

12. California State University Los Angeles

Cal State LA isn’t the strongest academic school in the CSU system. However, in the pre-med department it does benefit from its size and academic resources.

For example, the I AM PRE-MED Club gives students advice on what courses to take and how to gain experiences that will bolster their med school applications.

11. San Francisco State University

Another university benefiting from its size and location, San Francisco State University offers a good variety of biology programs at the undergraduate level:

  • General Biology
  • Cell/Molecular Biology
  • EECB
  • Marine Science
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology

SFSU also has post-baccalaureate programs to prepare for med-school, although as an undergraduate you can avoid this need by taking the necessary prerequisites.

10. California State University Sacramento

Sacramento State’s large biology department offers the following undergraduate opportunities:

  • BA in Biological Science
  • BS in Biological Science
  • BS in Biological Science (Biomedical Sciences)
  • BS in Biological Science (Cell and Molecular Biology)
  • BS in Biological Science (Clinical Laboratory)
  • BS in Biological Science (Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation)
  • BS in Biological Science (General Biology)
  • BS in Biological Science (Microbiology)
  • Biological Sciences Honors Program

For pre-med students, Sacramento State also offers information, advising, Pipeline Programs, and Collaboration Programs.

9. Sonoma State University

Sonoma State offers the typical bachelor of science in biology degree and pre-med advising. With the advantage of smaller class sizes, their graduates have been accepted at medical schools including:

  • UCSF
  • UC Davis
  • Oregon Health Sciences University
  • California Northstate University College of Medicine
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • St. George’s University School of Medicine

8. San José State University

Another university taking advantage of size to offer a wide variety of biology courses, SJSU has the following options for undergraduates in biology:

  • BA, Biological Sciences
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Concentration in Microbiology
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Concentration in Molecular Biology
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Concentration in Systems Physiology
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Concentration in Ecology and Evolution
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Concentration in Marine Biology

7. California State University Monterey Bay

The biology B.S. at CSUMB features “small classes, a wide availability of study groups and tutoring, expert faculty dedicated to student success, research and internship opportunities, and advisors who specialize in science majors.”

6. Cal Poly Pomona

With pre-med guidance, a respected biology program, and an acceptance rate just over 60%, Cal Poly Pomona is in the territory of prestigious and competitive CSU schools.

Their technical excellence carries over to biology, where you can expect a rigorous and comprehensive program.

5. California State University Chico

Chico State offers three undergraduate biology degrees:

  • The Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences
  • The Bachelor of Science in Microbiology
  • The Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences

Student opportunities include a Biology Honor Society, a Pre-Med Association, and a Pre-Dental Association.

4. California State University Fullerton

A selective Cal State program, CSU Fullerton’s biology program has five concentrations for students to choose from:

  • 1) Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • 2) Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • 3) Marine Biology
  • 4) Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
  • 5) Plant Biology

With a post-baccalaureate pre-med program, CSU Fullerton has lots of experience advising pre-med students, and is one of the best CSU schools for biology and pre-med majors.

3. California State University Long Beach

With degrees in biological sciences and microbiology, CSU Long Beach has a great reputation in the scientific fields.

With a well-developed pre-med guidance program and an exclusive reputation, getting into CSU Long Beach may be the challenging part, as they’re one of a handful of Cal State schools that accepts fewer than 50% of applicants.

2. California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly vies with San Diego State University as the most prestigious and exclusive Cal State school, and they have an excellent biology program.

They boast that over 75% of their biology courses have a lab section, which “means our students spend most of their time out in the field collecting data or in the lab running experiments on modern equipment – not sitting at desks.”

The available concentrations are:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Biodiversity, and Conservation
  • Molecular & Cellular Biology
  • General Curriculum Biology

What is the best CSU for biology and pre-med majors?

The only Cal State school to make the U.S. News biology rankings is also one of the most selective and prestigious CSU schools overall.

San Diego State University is our choice for the best CSU for biology and pre-med majors.

1. San Diego State University

With 1300 undergraduate students majoring in Biology and Microbiology, SDSU has a strong and developed program that has sent students to top medical schools throughout America.

The undergraduate biology degrees has several concentrations:

  • B.S. Biology (General degree, no emphasis)
  • B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology)
  • B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Ecology)
  • B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Evolutionary Biology)
  • B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Marine Biology)
  • B.S. Biology (Emphasis in Zoology)

They also have a Microbiology degree, with a general track and another track emphasizing Clinical Laboratory Science.

The Health Professions Advising Office at SDSU is also one of the most robust we’ve seen for pre-health and pre-med students.

In a crowded field of quality programs, San Diego State University leads the field of the best CSU schools for biology and pre-med.


If you’re considering medical school, minimizing debt can also keep your stress levels down throughout school. One way to keep the costs low is to look for local scholarships with less competition, and we’ve written a guide on how to do just that.

Once you find scholarships to apply for, you can also check out our 15-step process to writing a knockout scholarship essay.

Finally, we’d recommend CLEP tests as another way to save time and tuition by testing out of some general education requirements. We’ve ranked the easiest CLEP tests here for your convenience.

Thanks for visiting College Guidepost, and we wish you the best in your biology and pre-med journey!