Microbiology Graduate Degrees
A degree program in microbiology will help you comprehend biology and science on microscopic level. Learn about graduate programs that can prepare you for a career in microbiology and find out about the prerequisites, courses and specialization areas in the field.
What Degrees Can I Earn?
Most graduate programs in microbiology are designed to lead to a Ph.D.; however, some universities offer the opportunity to earn a Master of Science. In general, having a Ph.D. greatly expands your research opportunities and employment options as a microbiologist. If you have a different but related career goal as a scientist, earning a master's might be a better option.
|Degree Level||Master's or Doctoral|
|Prerequisites||Bachelor's degree in microbiology or related field, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, and completion of specific courses|
|Common Courses||Microbial physiology, microbial genetics, pathogenic bacteriology, bacterial diversity, immunology|
|Potential Careers||Environmental microbiologist, fermentation technologist, recombinant DNA technologist, public health microbiologist, food and dairy microbiologist|
|Median Salary (2018)||$71,650* (for microbiologists)|
|Job Outlook (2016-26)||8%* (for all microbiologists)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Are the Prerequisites?
Applicants to graduate programs in microbiology are required to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in microbiology or a related field, such as molecular biology, genetics, chemistry or biochemistry. If you have a bachelor's degree in another field of study, you may also apply if you have satisfied course prerequisites of the program you wish to enter. You'll likely have to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose, as well as providing proof that you've completed the following courses:
What Will I Study?
Microbiology is a vast field that comprises numerous areas of specialization, such as virology (the study of viruses) and immunology (the study of how organisms resist infections). As a graduate student, you'll likely pass through a variety of lab rotations that expose you to the breadth of the field before you select a specialization to pursue in greater depth. Graduate studies in microbiology include courses in chemistry and biochemistry, as well as the following classes:
- Microbial physiology
- Microbial genetics
- Pathogenic bacteriology
- Bacterial diversity
- Prokaryotic molecular biology
- General virology
What Are Typical Program Requirements?
Following the completion of core coursework and lab rotations, you'll usually be required to pass written and oral qualifying examinations to continue into the dissertation process of a Ph.D. program. Qualifying exams usually involve proposing and orally defending your dissertation research, for which you'll be required to make an original contribution to your area of specialization. To do this successfully, you'll need to synthesize your graduate course and lab work in microbiology. Typically, you will also have teaching requirements as you complete your dissertation research.
What Can I Do With My Degree?
Microbiologists perform research that leads to practical applications in virology, microbial genetics, immunology and physiology, among other areas. A doctorate degree is often required for independent research positions in academia, government or industry; however, you may be qualified for laboratory work with a master's degree. In addition to college professor, numerous job titles are possible with your graduate degree in microbiology. These might include the following:
- Environmental microbiologist
- Fermentation technologist
- Recombinant DNA technologist
- Public health microbiologist
- Food or dairy microbiologist
- Quality control analyst