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Microbiology Degree

A microbiologist is a professional who studies microorganisms such as viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites, and algae. They are concerned with understanding how these microorganisms grow, interact with their environments, and live their lives.
For those interested in pursuing a career in microbiology, there are a number of different degree types available. Usually, a bachelor’s degree in the discipline is required for most entry level positions and more advanced qualifications are required for jobs which are more technical.

What is Microbiology?

Microbiology is a discipline that is considered both a basic and an applied science and is the study of microorganisms. It is the complete biological study of all things which concern microorganisms and their activities. This includes everything from the:

  • Structure of microorganisms
  • Their form
  • Physiology
  • Reproduction patterns and cycles
  • Structure
  • Identification
  • Their relationship to other microorganisms and organisms
  • Their distribution in nature
  • Their potential beneficial and detrimental effects on human beings
  • What effects (physical and chemical changes) they can make or cause in their environments

What are some of the job requirements of a microbiologist?

Microbiologists may carry out some or all of the following:

  • Plan and carry out complex research projects for specific purposes
  • Research the effects of developing new drugs to ward off infectious diseases
  • Collect specimens from humans, animals, plants, and different environments and identify the microorganisms found in them
  • Maintain microorganisms for study
  • Determine the effects of particular microorganisms on specific plants, animals, environments or other microorganisms
  • Prepare research papers and publish reports
  • Attend conferences with other specialists in related fields
  • Make recommendations based on their research
  • Present their research findings to scientists, non-scientist executives, engineers, other colleagues, and the public

Types of Microbiology Degree’s

Microbiology is a discipline which is heavily lab-focused. For this reason, online microbiology programs are extremely rare. Most degree programs must be taken on campus because of the laboratory work and research experience required by the program.

Bachelors in Microbiology

A bachelor’s degree in microbiology introduces students to the fundamentals of the molecular biosciences and how these concepts are related from a molecular level to the organismal level. Through a combination of theoretical and practical work, students develop the critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills necessary to solve a wide range of scientific problems.
This program typically takes four years to complete.

Entry Requirements

  • High school diploma or its equivalent
  • Students must have taken courses in biology, chemistry, and physics in high school
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by the program you are applying to
  • Letters of recommendation

Some of the courses which make up the curriculum of the program include:

  • Microbial physiology, metabolism and regulation
  • Molecular genetics
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Environmental microbiology
  • Molecular biology
  • Virology
  • Cellular ultrastructure
  • Immunology

Masters in Microbiology

A master’s degree in microbiology gives students a deeper understanding of the function and role of microbial life through a more detailed study of microorganisms. Students can expect to learn how to utilize biotechnology in order to learn more about human disease and cell reproduction.
This program typically takes two years to complete.

Entry Requirements

  • A bachelor's degree in biological sciences
  •  Students must have completed courses in physics, biology, organic chemistry and mathematics
  • Some programs prefer candidates with prior research experience
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Specific GPA requirements are determined by individual programs

Master’s programs in microbiology are very research intensive. Furthermore, students will be required to complete a thesis on an original piece of research in the field.
Some of the courses that students can expect to take include:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Pathogen microbiology
  • Oceanography microbiology
  • Genetics of bacteria
  • Ethical research
  • Marine microbiology
  • Microbial physiology
  • Immunology
  • Microorganism biology
  • Virology of animals

Ph.D. in Microbiology

Ph.D. programs in the field of microbiology are typically taught in conjunction with another related discipline such as immunology or virology. These programs aim to equip students with the necessary tools and knowledge to enter positions in research or academia.
The program requires students to undertake advanced research on topics like cellular structure or bacterial pathogenesis and be highly knowledgeable in several areas of microbiology.

Entry Requirements

  • A master’s degree in microbiology
  • Some programs do however consider candidates who have completed at least a bachelor's degree in a related scientific field
  • Some programs require candidates who have a degree in a related science field to pass an exam demonstrating their competence in the field
  • Specific GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation

In addition to the intensive study of microbiology, students will be required to contribute to the field by publishing research papers, attending seminars and teaching classes.
The program culminates with a thesis project on an original piece of research.
Although the precise curriculum is likely to vary according to the specific concentration area chosen, students may take courses such as:

  • Applied bioinformatics
  • Microbiology laboratory methods
  • Advanced genetics
  • Microbiology of marine microorganisms

Job Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the data corresponding to microbiologists is as follows:

  • The median annual salary for microbiologists in 2012 was $66,260.
  • The top 10 percent of professionals in the field earned more than $117,690.
  • In 2012, microbiologists held about 20,100 jobs in the U.S.
  • Typical work environments include laboratories and offices where they will be conducting experiments.
  • Microbiologists are typically required to work full-time and in general, maintain regular hours.
  • The annual median salaries for microbiologists in 2012 in the top five microbiologists employing industries were:

Federal government, excluding postal service


Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing


Research and development in the physical, engineering,
and life sciences


State and local government, excluding education and


Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state


Microbiology is the study of microorganisms. Those interested in this field can pursue a bachelor’s degree for most entry level positions. For more advanced positions, individuals may consider graduate or doctoral programs depending on their specific career goals.



States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 16600.111.2618.1337720
Florida 11300.141.6817.9737370
Illinois 9600.161.9217.937240
Texas 7600.070.7816.6234570
New York 6500.070.8520.1241840


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Can you tell me about careers with a microbiology degree?

A:With a degree in microbiology, you can look forward to diverse careers in different sectors. Some of the job positions related to this field include" microbiologist, pharmacologist, research associate, research scientist, and biomedical scientist. The income level will vary from job to job. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, microbiologists made a median annual income of $67,790 in 2014.

Q:How to become a microbiologist?

A:To become a microbiologist, you would have to meet a certain criteria and follow a few steps. The first thing you would need to do is get a high school diploma and opt for courses in natural sciences, such as biology, chemistry and physics. After this, you need to get a bachelor's degree in microbiology, followed by a graduate degree. Following this, you will need to obtain certification under the American College of Microbiology.

Q:What does a microbiologist do?

A:A microbiologist studies microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria, algae, viruses and types of parasites. Their main job is to try and understand how these organisms survive, grow and interact with their surroundings. Microbiologists use this knowledge to improve drugs and food and understand how to control or spread disease.

Q:What is a microbiologist?

A:A microbiologist is a scientist who studies organisms called microbes. These microbes can take the form of bacteria, viruses or fungi. Microbiologists are trained in depth to understand these microbes and study them in their basic forms. They try and determine how these small organism affect the environment around them, how they live and what they survive on. This knowledge comes in handy in the developing field of medicine.

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