Microbiologists study the way that microscopic organisms—bacteria, viruses, and fungi—function, evolve, and cause disease. The Microbiology B.A. degree may be a good choice if you are interested in microbiology and want to develop a foundation in science while getting a chance to explore other academic disciplines.
The Microbiology B.A. is offered through the Department of Biology, part of the College of Arts and Sciences. The department includes expert faculty who specialize in a wide range of disciplines within the biological sciences.
The Microbiology B.A. degree is suitable for students who are double majors as well as those individuals whose career goals include being a laboratory technician or working in an outside field, such as business, or environmental studies.
The biology department offers two microbiology degrees: the Bachelor of Arts in Microbiology (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science in Microbiology (B.S.). The two degree options begin similarly, making it easy to adjust your path as your interests develop.
The Microbiology B.A. is one of the more flexible degrees offered by the biology department. It provides students with training in the major subject areas of microbiology, while giving them the chance to explore other academic disciplines.
The Microbiology B.A. has minimal chemistry and math requirements, allowing students to double major or purse additional minors. The Microbiology B.A. does not automatically fulfill most of the requirements for entrance to medical, dental, or optometry schools or to most graduate programs in microbiology.
If you wish to establish a rigorous background in the sciences that will prepare you for graduate or professional school in microbiology for science-related jobs, the Microbiology B.A. degree may be a good choice for you.
Students pursuing the Microbiology B.A. degree begin by taking an introductory biology lecture, BIOL-L 112 Foundations of Biology: Biological Mechanisms.
It is important for you to begin the chemistry sequence required for the Microbiology B.A. major when you are a freshman or sophomore, since a foundation in chemistry is required for a majority of intermediate and upper-level microbiology courses.
You may work with one of the Biology academic advisors to determine which beginning chemistry course is appropriate for you (either CHEM-C 103 or CHEM-C 117/127), or you can take the C117 Eligibility Quiz yourself on the Chemistry department's website.
To be successful in the Microbiology major, it is important not to take too many science and math courses per semester. Talk with one of the Biology academic advisors about how to balance your science course load.
Tracks and concentrations
The Microbiology B.A. degree gives students the opportunity to explore different areas within the field of microbiology as well as other academic disciplines. As a Microbiology B.A. major, you have the freedom to take upper-level courses from many different areas of microbiology, shaping your degree according to your interests.
The Microbiology B.A. does not have official areas of concentration, but students who are interested in a particular facet of microbiology may choose to take several upper level classes in that area. These include:
- Medical microbiology
- Prokaryotic microbiology
- Eukaryotic microbiology
- Ecological and environmental microbiology
This way, you acquire a more coherent education in a specific area of microbiology. Your introductory courses help you determine which (if any) specific area of interest to pursue.
Upper level coursework
All microbiology majors have the opportunity to take upper level courses in microbial ecology, genetics, microbiology, cellular, developmental, environmental, and molecular biology.
Keep in mind that you will need a strong foundation in inorganic and organic chemistry in order to successfully progress through your intermediate and upper level microbiology courses.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates.
Common minors for microbiology students are psychology, animal behavior, chemistry, social science and medicine, medical sciences, biotechnology, anthropology, and Spanish (or another language). Check your bulletin for more information about these minors.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in Microbiology, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
Undergraduate Research Programs such as the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program, the Integrated Freshman Learning Experience (IFLE), Science, Technology, and Research Scholars (STARS) give students who are especially interested in research the opportunity to start working in a lab as early as their freshman year.
ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
Students in IFLE begin research the summer before their freshman year.
Many exciting research opportunities are available to Microbiology majors at IU Bloomington. Interdisciplinary research in biology and microbiology takes place in Indiana University facilities such as the Indiana Molecular Biology Institute, the Biocomplexity Institute, the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior (CISAB), and the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics. The nearby Research and Teaching Preserve provides a setting for field-based research in ecology and environmental issues.
A large number of students choose to pursue research positions in faculty labs. Through working in a lab, you get to participate in cutting edge research, explore your own research interests, build relationships with faculty members, and gain valuable work and research experience. You are encouraged to work with a faculty member who specializes in what most interests you.
Biology students have the unique opportunity to gain teaching experience through becoming an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA). Students may earn either academic credit or be paid for their UTAship.
Visit the Biology department website for more information on undergraduate research opportunities, UTAships, and the Biology faculty's areas of research expertise. The academic advisors also post relevant research opportunities on the Biology blog.
Outstanding students may earn honors in Microbiology by writing and defending an honors thesis on their own original research. Students work with a faculty mentor to develop their research project, write their thesis, and assemble their thesis committee.
To be eligible for departmental honors, students must have conducted their own research over at least two semesters and earned at least 6 credits of BIOL-X490 Research in Biology devoted to their original project. Students who successfully complete and defend their honors thesis before their thesis committee receive honors in microbiology upon graduation. Talk with the academic advisors and the biology faculty for more information.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
The following programs and scholarships are available to incoming freshmen who are interested in research:
- Cox Research Scholarship
- Integrated Freshman Learning Experience (IFLE)
- Science, Technology, and Research Scholars (STARS)
Many scholarships and awards are available to Biology students.The Biology website has information about departmental scholarships and awards, as well as those offered by Indiana University and other sources.
The biology academic advisors also post relevant funding opportunities and scholarships on the Biology blog.
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.
Previous Microbiology students have found internship opportunities with organizations such as:
- American Red Cross
- American Society for Microbiology
- Applied Behavior Center for Autism
- BioPharma Solutions
- Boston Scientific
- Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington
- Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
- Cincinnati Children's Hospital
- Cook Medical
- Eli Lilly and Company
- Indiana Review
- Indy HealthNet
- IUB Center for Postsecondary Research
- IUB Department of Biology
- Middle Way House
- National Institute of Health
- National Science Foundation
- Procter & Gamble
- Riley Children's Hospital
- Roche Diagnostics
- Timmy Global Health
- WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology
Students may apply to receive academic credit for unpaid internships and job shadowing opportunities through the Biology department by applying for BIOL-X473 credit.
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you will find many resources for both domestic and international internships.
The academic advisors post relevant research and internship opportunities on the Biology blog.
Foreign language study
A Microbiology B.A. major must demonstrate fourth-semester proficiency in a single foreign language. This coursework fulfills both the College of Arts and Sciences Foreign Language and the IUB General Education World Languages and Cultures requirements.
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.
Below is a sampling of the resources available to students at IU Bloomington:
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Center
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Summer Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Microbiology students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:
- Adelaide, Australia
- Canberra, Australia
- Perth, Australia
- Wollongong, Australia
- Grand Cayman (spring/summer)
- Valparaiso, Chile
- Costa Rica (winter break)
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Canterbury, England (semester or academic year)
- Oxford-St. Anne's, England (academic year)
- Freiburg, Germany (semester or academic year)
- Legon, Ghana (semester or academic year)
- Bologna, Italy (semester or academic year)
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Christchurch, New Zealand
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Barcelona, Spain
The College of Arts and Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Biology faculty, your academic advisor, and the Office of Overseas Study.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one. Student associations include:
- American Academy of Optometry at Indiana University
- Best Buddies at Indiana University
- Biology Club
- Dental Club at Indiana University
- Environmental Law Society
- Environmental Management and Sustainable Development Association
- Global Environmental Brigades: Panama, at Indiana University
- Global Medical Brigades at Indiana University
- MEDLIFE at Indiana University
- Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students
- oSTEM at Indiana University
- Pre-Optometry Club at Indiana University
- Pre-Pharmacy Club at Indiana University
- Pre-Student Osteopathic Medical Association (pre-SOMA) at Indiana University
- Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science at Indiana University
- Science Outreach Society
- Timmy Global Health at Indiana University
- Women in Science at Indiana University
Residential Programs and Services at IU offers a variety of learning communities, which allow students to select to live among peers with a common interest. Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to Microbiology students:
- Collins Living-Learning Center
- Global Living-Learning Community
- Health Sciences Residential Community
- Honors Residential Communities
- INSPIRE Living-Learning Center
- Wells Quad STEM Residential Community
- Women in STEM Living-Learning Center
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- Adopt a Trail–Bloomington Parks and Rec
- American Cancer Society
- Best Buddies
- Big Brothers Big Sisters
- Girls Inc.
- Habitat for Humanity
- Indy HealthNet
- IU Hilltop Garden and Nature Center
- Middle Way House
- Monroe County Humane Association
- The Red Cross
- WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.
Students and alumni who wish to get involved with a professional organization may be interested in:
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- American Society for Cell Biology
- American Society for Microbiology
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
- International Mammalian Genome Society
- National Science Foundation
- Society for Biological Engineering
- Society for Developmental Biology
- Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
- Build your skills
Through the major
The Microbiology B.A. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- Acquire knowledge of foundational biological concepts, particularly as they relate to microbiology
- Apply the scientific process to address biological problems using hypothesis-driven inquiry and experimentation
- Learn modern lab techniques
- Design experiments, collect data, and use quantitative reasoning to analyze, interpret, and present data
- Participate in collaborative interactions to analyze data and solve problems
- Find and critically evaluate information on biological questions and communicate that information to diverse audiences in both written and oral form
- Situate microbiological studies within the greater context of prior published work and identify current gaps in knowledge
- Develop expertise in a particular area of microbiological study
See Biology department Undergraduate Learning Goals for more information.
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
Maximize your career preparation with a career course. Microbiology majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Natural and Mathematical Sciences provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
The job market
With the increased focus on job growth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, the job opportunities are vast for students with analytical, critical thinking, and research skills.
Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: research, healthcare, education, biotechnology, business/industry, pharmaceutical research and sales, parks, museums, national laboratories, and government.
Graduates with the Microbiology B.A. have become research assistants, microbiologists, sales representatives, quality analysts, teachers, technical writers, lab managers, and conservation officers, among many other vocations and careers.
Talk with faculty, your academic advisor, your career coach, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Department of Biology. Ask your advisor about requesting letters of recommendation from faculty, employers, and others who are familiar with your work as an undergraduate.
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center's First Destinations survey!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations. The "Occupation Groups" and "Occupation Finder" sections can provide insight into entry-level education requirements and the job outlook for specific fields.
Other useful job-search resources include:
O*Net Online is a site that includes detailed descriptions of the world of work. You can conduct an “Occupation Quick Search” in the top right corner of the homepage, or use the “Career Cluster” search under Find Occupations to look at snapshots of different career paths. The Wages and Employment Trends section under each specific career title has information like projected growth and projected job openings that can be useful.
What Can I Do With This Major? is a site that compiles lists of majors and outlines various careers and strategies for finding employment in numerous fields. The industries featured under each major can be beneficial for brainstorming career options in each major.
Vocational Biographies features over 1,000 career stories of individuals in a variety of fields. The “Career Pathway” and “Career Cluster” sections let you search through common interests for specific career stories. Each story has a box of information on the last page with job outlook, education and training, salary range, and more data that can be useful. Use the following username/password to access this site: username: IndianaUniv password: zSQhK
Walter Center for Career Achievement Outcomes Report has top level data about College of Arts and Sciences students. It shows success rates by major, as well as the graduate schools, internships, and job offers students have reported through our survey methods.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:
- Alliance Health Project
- Argonne National Laboratory
- Department of Homeland Security Pathways Program
- National Institutes of Health Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training
- Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
- Peace Corps
- Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program
- Teach for America
Teaching positions give you a chance to hone language and communication skills. Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as Center for International Education Exchange, Institute of International Education, and LanguageCorps.
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- The Allan Rosenfield, M.D. HIV/AIDS Public Policy Fellowship Program
- Cincinnati Children's Hospital Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
- Association of Public Health Laboratory Fellowships
- Family USA Villers Fellowship for Health Care Justice
- Fulbright Programs
- Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Post-Bachelor Fellowship
- Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you’ll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
A Microbiology B.A. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as research, medicine, healthcare, biotechnology, and education.
If you are interested in graduate school, start thinking about your options early. To develop the skills you need for graduate study, it is important to make connections and build relationships with faculty and advisors.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.
Students who pursue graduate studies in biology have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, medicine and healthcare, business and entrepreneurship, and government organizations
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:
- Department of Biology (MS in Biotechnology, PhD in several fields)
- School of Education–Transition to Teaching (graduate certification or MSEd)
- School of Medicine (MD and PhD)
- School of Public Health (MPA, MSES, and PhD)
- O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (MPH, MS, and PhD)
The Biology department provides services to alumni through their development office, which organizes departmental events, administers undergraduate departmental scholarships, and publishes an alumni newsletter. We encourage you to stay in touch with the biology department after graduating from IU by sending news about your activities.
The IU College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts and Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Microbiology B.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically possess some of the following qualities:
- Interest in the basic structure, function, growth, and evolution of bacteria, fungi, and viruses
- Enjoy diverse interests and aspire to explore multiple academic disciplines
- Desire to think critically and ethically about biological research and its societal impact
- Appreciation of the natural world
- Intellectual curiosity and imagination
- Aptitude for quantitative and scientific reasoning
Contact one of the Biology academic advisors and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address