All students learn the fundamental principles of biology: cell theory, evolution, genetics, homeostasis, and energy. They learn that cells are the fundamental unit of life, that life changes through evolution, that genes are the primary unit of inheritance, that all life can regulate its internal environment, and that a continuous input of energy is required for living things to continue to exist.
Most programs offer specializations after the initial year, in areas such as animal biology, genetics, plant biology, cell biology, conservation biology, and many others. Later courses are designed with these specializations in mind. Zoology and botany students learn about the diversity of their chosen field, as well as ecology, genetics, behavior, and physiology. The can further specialize in areas such as marine biology, mammalogy, entomology, protistology, or plant genetics.
Students with a microbial specialization will take courses in cell biology where they learn how a cell works, regulation, division, and lifespan. The diversity of the microbial world is also studied, where they can further specialize in fields such as virology, bacteriology, mycology, or parasitology.
Ecology-type students learn more about the communities of biological organisms. They learn about interactions amongst various taxa, how non-biological aspects such as geology and chemistry affect biology, and how communities are affected by human activities. See the article on biodiversity for more information.
Classroom studies are supplemented by laboratory studies, where students do hands-on exercises such as dissections, plant or insect breeding, microbial cultures, or animal behavior studies. Laboratory studies are themselves supplemented by field studies where specimens are obtained and other data collected.