Best UC Schools for Pre Med and Biology • The Top 9 Ranked

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The Best UC Schools for Pre Med and Biology

Ranking the best UC schools for pre med and biology is a tough combination, as the quality of a school’s biology program and its medical school preparation are two different things. We’ll do our best to weigh both factors and provide plenty of details for each school.

If you’re open to attending a Cal State school such as San Diego State University, we’ve ranked the 15 best CSU schools for biology and pre-med right here.

This article is primarily focused on the undergraduate experience, so we won’t rank the prestigious UC San Francisco, as it doesn’t offer any undergraduate degrees.

UC schools have different program strengths—for example, in our review of UC engineering programs we noted that 7 of UC Merced’s undergraduate majors are related to engineering.

That holds true for pre med and biology, but the good news is that you can get into medical school with a degree from any of these schools. The MCAT is a great equalizer when it comes to medical school, and a high MCAT score adds credibility to a high GPA from an unknown school.

When considering your undergraduate program, it’s good to consider the fit, location, and financial aid package along with the school’s prestige. For pre med students, a high GPA can also be more difficult to maintain at the more prestigious schools.

We’ve also written an article reviewing the best scholarships at each of the 9 UC schools that you can check out.

With the caveats given, let’s deliver those rankings you came for.

9. UC Merced

UC Merced isn’t the most prestigious UC school for pre-med or biology, but they’ve worked hard to build a solid biology program with 5 specialized tracks for biological sciences majors:

  • Human Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Ecology and Evolutionary biology

On the pre med side, UC Merced offers Pre-Health Advising for health professions including medical school.

Even ranked 9th on our list, UC Merced is part of the University of California system and has impressive resources for aspiring medical students.

8. UC Riverside

UC Riverside has two biology departments. The Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology has B.A. and B.S. degrees in Biology. While this major doesn’t have pre-made tracks, they allow flexibility in course choices for “upper-division biology courses for the 36 units required for the major”.

Meanwhile, the Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology offers two undergraduate majors: Neuroscience, and Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology (CMDB).

The Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology (CMDB) major was added in 1999. With an interdisciplinary approach, this program enrolls 30-40 students per year.

UC Riverside also has a medical school, and accepts 24 undergraduate students each year into the Thomas Haider Early Assurance Program. This program guarantees acceptance into the medical school as long as you meet certain criteria.

You can also find more UC Riverside pathway programs here.

7. UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz’ Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department offers four undergraduate degrees, in addition to an Environmental Studies/Biology Combined BA:

  • Ecology & Evolution
  • Marine Biology
  • Plant Sciences
  • Biology

UC Santa Cruz Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology co-sponsors the more general B.A. in Biology, as well as three more specialized Bachelor of Science majors:

  • Human Biology BS
  • Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology BS
  • Neuroscience BS

UC Santa Cruz doesn’t offer a specific pre med degree, but does have an established Pre-Health Coaching Program.

6. UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara has an impressive breadth of undergraduate biology programs with 10 majors:

  • Biological Sciences BA
  • Biological Sciences BS
  • Aquatic Biology
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Ecology and Evolution
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Zoology

The Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) is has roughly 30 faculty “whose research activities bridge the broad spectrum of modern biology”, listing a collaborative and collegial environment as one of their distinctives.

UC Santa Barbara also has 8 staff who work in their Health Professions Advising Department, providing structure and answering questions for pre med students at UCSB.

5. UC Irvine

UC’s biological sciences undergraduate program places 32nd nationally in the latest U.S. News rankings, and encompasses four departments:

  • Neurobiology and Behavior
  • Developmental and Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

There are an impressive number of majors to choose from, and the rigorous academic environment is great preparation for biology-related careers.

Despite all the available majors, most pre med students at UC Irvine stick with the General Biology major as the most straightforward track to meeting medical school requirements.

While UC Irvine ranks 5th on our list, it’s a top-caliber school for biology and pre med majors.

4. UC Davis

UC Davis ranks among America’s top 20 colleges in the undergraduate biological sciences programs. With a full college dedicated to studying the biological sciences, UC Davis offers 12 majors:

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Biological Sciences
  • Cell Biology
  • Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Human Biology
  • Marine and Coastal Science
  • Molecular and Medical Microbiology
  • Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
  • Plant Biology
  • Systems and Synthetic Biology
  • Undeclared Life Sciences

With all the facilities, resources, and research opportunities you can imagine, UC Davis promises a rigorous education.

Pre med students will feel that competition especially strongly, though it isn’t as wildly competitive as the top two UCs.

3. UC San Diego

UC San Diego’s School of Biological Sciences enrolls more than 5,000 undergraduate students across 7 majors:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Ecology Behavior & Evolution
  • General Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Neurobiology

Of these, human biology is a common choice for pre med students.

U.S. News ranks UCSD 17th in the nation in the biological sciences, and the Career Center also provides excellent resources for pre med students to bolster their future applications.

The prestige, research labs, and medical school at UCSD attract some really smart students, which makes it hard to maintain a high GPA.


We’re getting to the cream of the crop with UCLA, another competitive school with great resources and high expectations of students.

UCLA’s College of Life Sciences offers 12 majors:

  • Biology (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
  • Cognitive Science (Psychology)
  • Computational & Systems Biology (Computational and Systems Biology)
  • Ecology, Behavior and Evolution (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
  • Human Biology and Society (Institute for Society and Genetics)
  • Integrative Biology and Physiology (Integrative Biology and Physiology)
  • Marine Biology (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
  • Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics (Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics)
  • Molecular, Cell Developmental Biology (Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology)
  • Neuroscience (Neuroscience)
  • Psychobiology (Psychology)
  • Psychology, B.A. (Psychology)

For pre med students, UCLA has consistently placed over 50% of students into medical school, significantly higher than the national acceptance rate.

UCLA offers a world-class educational experience for biology and pre-med students. The challenges are getting into UCLA in the first place, paying for school, and maintaining a high GPA.

1. UC Berkeley

The best UC schools for pre med and biology are headlined by one of the world’s top universities. For pre med students, Berkeley’s name carries a weight that not even UCLA can match.

The cost is, well, the money, but also a competitive environment where you’ll have to work very hard to maintain your GPA. If you can, you’ll be very well prepared for medical school, but maintaining your GPA at Berkeley will take sacrifice.

UC Berkeley offers 12 biology majors, with Molecular & Cell Biology being the most popular among pre-med students. There are five concentrations students can choose from within the Molecular & Cell Biology major:

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Genetics, Genomics, and Development
  • Immunology and Pathogenesis
  • Neurobiology

While UC Berkeley is the most prestigious choice, our ranking of the best UC schools for pre med and biology doesn’t determine the best school for you. With GPA being an important factor and the importance of college debt, less heralded schools like UC Riverside are still great choice for pre med students.

If you’re considering other majors, we’ve also reviewed the best UC colleges for business, engineering, psychology and more. Thanks for visiting College Guidepost, and we wish you the best on your educational and career journey!