Do I have to take Biology / Chemistry / Physics?

I received the following question about science credits:

I have a daughter finishing 9th grade. She has done well in Biology 1 but doesn't want to take Chemistry or Physics. She is preparing for college and is unsure of her career at this point. She's not interested in science or math careers. She's English and History minded and artsy. What is your opinion of allowing her to take advanced Biology and maybe Marine Biology instead of Chemistry and Physics.

 Great question! It can be confusing on the requirements when it comes to science, as we typically associate the core sciences of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics as being mandatory.

Flexibility in Science

However, unlike math where Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry are pretty much required nation-wide, there is a lot more flexibility in most states when it comes to science requirements. By far Biology is the most commonly required science (if any), with Physical Science coming in second. In most states, there are options that students have to choose between, with ultimately anywhere from 2-4 science credits being required in most states. Chemistry is actually only directly required in Indiana (Standard track), Louisiana (College Track), and North Dakota (Standard track), and all of those states also offer tracks that would not require that class. You can see a list of requirements by state under the Science column here.

School / State Requirements

Note that your school may have different requirements than your state (possibly offering fewer options), especially if you are in a private school. If you are homeschooled you may be homeschooling under a different set of requirements, so check with your umbrella school/cover school/church-related school/online program if you are using one of those entities (or check with your state's homeschool organization).

College / Degree Program Requirements

In addition to your state/school's requirements, you should also consider the college/degree program you will ultimately be pursuing. Most colleges have pretty generic requirements for general admissions (typically 2-3 credits), but some more selective schools may be specifically requiring individual courses OR may prefer to have one or more science classes to be an AP class or see an AP/CLEP exam to demonstrate the level of rigor of your course. 

It is more common for specific degree paths to have requirements for certain science courses, so check with the degree program you intend to pursue (search for the college name you are thinking of applying to and then the major and then "admissions requirements").

Additional Thoughts

That being said, I do want to say that there is the additional question of will taking Chemistry/Physics help my understanding of the world? The reason so many of associate these classes as being required is because many high-schools have historically built the three courses into their curriculum to provided a well-rounded introduction to the scientific world, and I believe there is merit to that approach. So maybe your teen says they aren't interested in those fields, but you could perhaps pursue a theoretical class (offered in some schools, where the focus is on understanding the concepts but goes lighter on the math/problems). Or perhaps you just explore these fields casually on the side without the constraints of having to cover everything in typical course, just so your student is familiar with these fields that impact them every day.


In the case mentioned originally,  since the student is not entering a science-related field, as long as she is not required by the state to have Chemistry/Physics it should be fine to pursue Advanced Biology or Marine Biology. Check your state requirements, as well as your school's requirements and the college(s) you are considering, and then go from there!

Looking for more information on credit requirements? Check out our post on High-School Credits here. You can also grab our High School Resource Guide (or our Homeschool High School Resource Guide), check out our Study Skills Course, or schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn more about the resources available through UniversityReady to help you approach high school with confidence and prepare for success!

What science courses is your teen taking? Post in the comments below, along with any questions you would like for us to address in future posts!

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