Integrative Biology

What Is It?:

Integrative Biology focuses on the disciplines of genetics, physiology, behavior, ecology and evolution. The emphasis is on bringing multiple disciplines to bear on complex scientific questions. From genomics to global change, Integrative Biology seeks to discover the complex interrelationships between organisms and the physical and biological environment in which they live. This major prepares students for careers in medicine and the health professions, research, organisms, and the environment.

Study in this area of biology provides a strong foundation for investigations of animal and plant physiology, populations, ecology, biodiversity, conservation biology, and global change. As in other areas of biology, an understanding of evolutionary processes and mechanisms of genetic inheritance is required both to make sense of the history of life on Earth and to model the future. And, as in other areas of biology, our recently acquired abilities to "read" and manipulate DNA molecules has provided new tools and led to new understanding.

How does Integrative Biology differ from Molecular and Cellular Biology?

Integrative Biology seeks to discover the complex interrelationships between organisms and the physical and biological environment in which they live. The IB major provides students with a solid foundation in areas that include anatomy, behavior, ecology, evolution, genetics, genomics and physiology.

Molecular & Cellular Biology is focused on the fundamental structures, functions and mechanisms of living organisms. The MCB major provides students with a solid foundation in areas that include molecular genetics, microbiology, cell biology, developmental biology, biochemistry, physiology, and structural biology.

Those interested in conservation biology or the evolution of disease, for example, will find a good match in Integrative Biology, while those interested in the detailed workings of the human immune system or structure-function relationships in proteins will likely find more relevant courses in Molecular & Cellular Biology. Students should note which aspects of biology interest them as they take the shared introductory courses to distinguish which option will be the best fit.

For more information, please visit the School of Integrative Biology

Courses That Introduce the Major:

  • IB 150—Organismal and Evolutionary Biology
  • MCB 150—Molecular and Cellular Basis of Life

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period

Possible Career Opportunities:

  • Dentistry
  • Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Forensics
  • Genomics and bioinformatics
  • Government and policy
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Preservation and conservation
  • Regulation and law
  • Research and development
  • Resource management
  • Sales and marketing
  • Science writing and journalism
  • Sustainability
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Zoos, parks, and forest preserves

Common Career Titles Related to this Major:

(Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree)

  • Aquarist
  • Arborist
  • Biological Scientist
  • Botanist
  • Consumer Products Researcher
  • Ecologist
  • Fish & Game Warden
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Forester and Conservation Scientist
  • Genetic Counselor
  • High School Biology Teacher
  • Lab and Field Technician
  • Marine Scientist
  • Medical Illustrator
  • Medical Transcriptionist
  • Medical Writer
  • Microbiologist
  • Oceanographer
  • Quality Control Specialist
  • Veterinarian
  • Wildlife Rehabilitator
  • Zoo Keeper

To learn more about what you can do with your IB degree, visit the Alumni Mentoring Program resources page and scroll down to the “Careers In...” handouts ( or contact Christina Swanson at

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:

  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • Integrative Illini: provides IB majors and students in other related sciences a community in which to network, learn more about research and how to get involved, and to volunteer to give back to the Champaign Urbana community. 
    • Illinois Student Chapter of the Wildlife Disease Association: focuses on the health and disease of wild animals in relation to their biology, conservation, research, and interactions with humans, domestic animals, and zoological species. 

Related Skills:

  • Analytical & quantitative abilities
  • Application of information technology
  • Attention to detail/detail oriented
  • Biology theory & practical knowledge
  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity and creativity
  • Hypothesis construction
  • Independent worker
  • Information handling & organization
  • Innovative talents
  • Numerical computation
  • Operate scientific equipment
  • Oral & written communication
  • Problem solving
  • Statistical awareness
  • Teamwork
  • Technical skills

Further Information:

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Integrative Biology. Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of Integrative Biology. These organizations include American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Biological Sciences, and American Society for Cell Biology.

For more information on: