Microbiology Degree

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What is Microbiology?

Microbiology is the study of the growth, development and behavior of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. Microbiology is divided into several fields of study, which includes bacteriology, clinical microbiology, virology, and others. Individuals working in this field typically pursue research and development positions, or utilize microbiological research to apply to real world solutions to given problems. Individuals in this field will have a strong background in math and science, and must be prepared to log and analyze research from controlled tests.

Top Microbiology Degrees

With a variety of degrees to choose from in microbiology, how do you know which is best for you?  The key to determining which degree is best will be a function of your personal priorities as applied to school offerings.  To help you establish your unique priority list, take the time to read our Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process.  Pages three and four provide the foundations for the development of a priority list that will make the decision-making process far easier.  With your priority list in hand, simply request information from the best schools for you below and begin to gather admissions information on top colleges offering microbiology degrees.

Microbiology Bachelor's Degrees

Earning a bachelor degree in microbiology will take approximately four-years of full time matriculation.  Microbiology degrees will be conferred by colleges as a Bachelor of Science (BS) given the science-rich curriculum.  Programs will fuse general education courses such as history, communications, sociology, psychology, and philosophy with core courses.  A common set of classes in microbiology will include courses such as: fundamentals of microbiology, pathogenic microbiology & infectious diseases, molecular biology, physiology of microorganisms, ecology, cell biology, physics, water microbiology, organic chemistry, botany, chemistry, calculus, and biochemical methods.

Microbiology Master Degrees

The master’s degree track in microbiology is conferred as a Master of Science (MS) at most universities with a heavy emphasis on sciences.  The program will vary in length from 2-3 years of full time matriculation and longer for part-time student’s dependent upon course load and time taken to complete the thesis project.

Classes will be a function of the area of specialty chosen, electives, and research courses.  Upon program completion, students will either find work in the field of microbiology or continue on to earn a PhD in the field.

PhD in Microbiology

A doctorate degree in microbiology is conferred as PhD and will take students 3-5 years of full time study to complete.  The PhD program provides microbiology students with a number of distinctive features. Common elements of a PhD degree include:

  • Dynamic research environments
  • Platform of use-inspired and translational research
  • Leading-edge training opportunities
  • Opportunities to collaborate with top-tier research partners
  • Learning moments with highly qualified professors

Graduates from the PhD program will continue research for public or private organizations, teach at the college-level, or find employment in industry performing a variety of tasks.

Microbiologist Educational Requirements

Students pursuing a career in microbiology must have at least a bachelor's degree in microbiology or a related, similar field. Students will have an education that prepares students with the knowledge necessary to identify and utilize scientific principles, as well as to utilize various research methodologies in order to better understand and utilize information garnered from such projects.

Individuals are typically required to participate in laboratory work in order to gain the necessary experience to become eligible for employment. Independent research typically requires a doctoral degree, which in turn requires postdoctoral research position which may last as long as three years.  A curriculum in microbiology may include:

  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Physics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbial Genetics
  • Physiology and Anatomy
  • Microbial Physiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Virology
  • Organic Chemistry

Employment Opportunities in Microbiology

Individuals in this field will typically work in laboratories or offices, conducting research or analyzing data from research projects. Such research programs are usually either looking for breakthroughs within the field for the purposes of medicine, food, or other related areas, or the application of existing research to provide solutions for problems.

A notable example is the use of genetics to create hardier and more productive strains of wheat. Individuals with higher levels of education will be able to pursue higher levels of research, with doctoral degree holders often working alongside colleges, universities, or government agencies to conduct independent research.

Microbiologist Salary & Job Growth

The mean annual salary of a microbiologist is currently sitting at $78,400.  The top ten percent of microbiologists average $130,000 while the bottom 25% earn $50,370 on average.  Top paying states for microbiologists include Maryland, California, and Georgia.  Biggest employers of microbiologists is research firms followed by pharmacy companies, universities, and architectural companies.

Microbiology is slated for an 8% growth in the coming ten year span of time.  The national average growth is expected to be around six percent making this niche discipline an attractive career.  Combining an above average income with a growing field can be an excellent recipe for success.  Individuals interested in microbiology may also be interested in virology, immunology, parasitology, toxicology, or forensic science.

Resources for Microbiologists

For additional information on a career path in microbiology, visit our Definitive Career Guide in Biology today.  Further research can be made via national associations such as the ASM or the Microbiology Society.  The resources and tools available in designated associations may be worthy of additional research for students interested in pursuing a career in microbiology.

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Related Areas of Study

Career Summary: Microbiology Major




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