College Majors for a BioComputing career

There seems to be many pathways to a BioComputing career with MS or PhD.

Need help deciding which BS major makes good sense for a STEM kid who loves Math, Chemistry & Biology. He/She wants to do cancer drug therapies or other analysis and is comfortable with wetlab, drylab or computing lab.

These majors are split across various colleges:.

  • Science Majors: Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology, Genetics, Computational Biology, Systems Biology…
  • Math/Computing Majors: BioInformatics, BioStatistics, BioMathematics…
  • Engineering Majors: BioComputational, BioE, BioMedical, BioMolecular, BioChemical…

Kid already has admits in many of these majors but we are still confused about what are the best undergraduate options to later do MS/PhD in Bioinformatics or Computational Biology or BioComputational Engg?

Sometimes it can help to look ahead by searching for job postings in the desired career. Here’s an example for a Scientist - Cancer Target Drug Discovery at the biotech company, Seagen. They state:

“A degree in the following or related preferred: Cell Biology, Cancer Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering”


This is not my area of expertise, but I suspect that a major in one of these three areas would work:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Biomathematics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology, Other
  • Computational Biology

According to College Navigator, there are 80 different schools that offer at least one of these majors.

Alternatively, as @csfmap indicated, look at what they’re asking for in job postings.

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Something similar to these majors can often be constructed starting with a more traditional major like math, statistics, computer science, or biology and then carefully choosing in-major and out-of-major electives.

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Most T20 Public Univs only have MS in BioInformatics or Computational Bio.

S23 has BS admits to

  • BioChemistry & Molecular Cell Biology majors: UIUC, PennState UP (Eberly), Waitlist (UCSD & UCD)
  • BioEngineering majors (clear BioComputing option in BS): CWRU, UW Seattle*, UMDCP
  • BioEngineering (unclear BioComputing option in BS): UC Irvine

Current best value option is UC Irvine but that would force S23 to do a dual major or minor in CS or Biology. Ignoring Costs, CWRU/UMDCP might be the most guaranteed option for BioComputing.

I guess I’m looking someone to say, it doesn’t matter which BS gets done as long as it is in a related field (Bio, BioChem, BioMed, CS) before doing MS/PhD in a BioComputing major. Is it?

There are colleges with computational biology majors, with varying amounts of biology, CS, math, and statistics (some are mostly biology, a few have a heavier CS emphasis). Perhaps look at the curricula to get an idea of what in-major electives and out-of-major courses a student in a general biology, biochemistry, or bioengineering major can choose for computational biology.

At UCI, courses like COMPSCI 183, 184A, 184B may be of interest.

A possible issue is that CS majors and courses can be overflowing at some colleges, so adding a CS major or getting into CS courses can be difficult at some colleges. Perhaps check each college carefully (e.g. see if the class schedule shows CS courses full all the time and check if there are any stated policies on enrollment priority in CS courses).

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