Microbiology B.S.

Microbiologists study the way that microscopic organisms—bacteria, viruses, and fungi—function, evolve, and cause disease. If you are interested in ecology, genetics, cellular, or molecular biology, and want to develop a rigorous background in the sciences that will prepare you for graduate or professional school for science related jobs, the Microbiology B.S. degree may be a good choice for you.

The Microbiology B.S. 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 Department of Biology offers two Microbiology degrees: the Bachelor of Science in Microbiology (B.S.) and the Bachelor of Arts in Microbiology (B.A.). The two degree options begin similarly, making it easy to adjust your path as your interests develop. 

The department also offers two Biology degrees: the Bachelor of Arts in Biology (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science in Biology (B.S.), as well as a minor in Biology.

The Microbiology B.S. includes significant coursework in inorganic and organic chemistry, physics and math, which helps prepare students for graduate and professional programs. Many Microbiology B.S. majors participate in independent research with faculty members.

If you are interested in Microbiology but want the flexibility to explore other academic disciplines or desire to work in non-science professions including business, the Microbiology B.A. may be the degree for you.

Coursework

Getting started

Students pursuing the Microbiology B.S. degree begin by taking an introductory biology lecture, BIOL-L112 Foundations of Biology: Biological Mechanisms.

A significant amount of chemistry coursework is required for the Microbiology B.S. degree, so it is important that you begin taking chemistry courses as soon as possible.

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

As a Microbiology B.S. major, you will have the freedom to take upper-level courses from many different areas of microbiology and you will get to shape your degree according to your interests.

The Microbiology B.S. does not have official areas of concentration, but students who are interested in a particular area of microbiology may choose to take several upper level classes in that area. These areas include:

  • Medical microbiology
  • Prokaryotic microbiology
  • Eukaryotic microbiology
  • Ecological and environmental microbiology

This way, you will acquire a more coherent education in a specific area of microbiology. Your introductory courses will 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.

Microbiology B.S. majors most commonly pursue the following additional degrees: Chemistry, Biochemistry, Psychology, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, or Spanish.

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. 

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.

Students can receive academic credit for their involvement in research through signing up for Independent Study credit hours. See the Biology department website for more information.

Undergraduate Research Programs such as 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. Students in IFLE begin research the summer before their freshman year.

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.

Honors

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.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

The following programs and scholarships are available to incoming freshmen who are interested in research:

Microbiology students may seek funding for summer research. See the Biology department's website for more information on summer research opportunities.

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

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:

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.S. major must demonstrate third-semester proficiency in a single foreign language. If a student decides to study through the fourth semester (or beyond), this coursework fulfills the IUB General Education World Languages and Cultures requirement.

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 70 languages

Below is a sampling of the resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

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
  • Wollongong, Australia
  • Grand Cayman (spring/summer)
  • Santiago, 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)
  • Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Istanbul, Turkey

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Biology faculty, your academic advisor, and the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one. Student associations include:

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:

For a complete list of Living Learning Centers, Academic Communities, and Thematic Communities, visit the Residential Programs and Services website.

Volunteer opportunities

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:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Students and alumni who wish to get involved with a professional organization may be interested in:

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The Microbiology B.S. 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 the Department of Biology's Undergraduate Learning Goals for more information.

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

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 abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Create and/or edit written reports
  • Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
  • Create and edit written reports
  • Ability to persuade or influence others

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

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career coach.

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.

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.S. 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 the 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.

Explore these helpful job-search resources:

Career Analytics Platform, also known as 12Twenty, provides major-specific dashboards with real-time information about internship and full-time job locations of our students.

IU Career Guides were created by career advisors in the Career Development Center. You can search by career cluster or use the “Search by Major” field to look at specific fields related to each major. The various tabs here allow you to browse job titles, ways to get experience, and employers that have hired in the field.  

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.

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 + 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.

Talk with faculty, your academic advisor, your career coach, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.

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:

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:

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.S. 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 professional programs.

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:

Alumni connections

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.

Talk with Biology faculty, your academic advisor, your career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of this degree.

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

The Microbiology B.S. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically possess some of the following qualities:

  • Aptitude for quantitative and scientific reasoning
  • Curiosity about the basic structure, function, growth, and evolution of bacteria, fungi, and viruses
  • Aspire to contribute to scientific research
  • Desire to work as a doctor, dentist, or other health professional
  • Appreciation of the natural world
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination
  • Interest in thinking critically and ethically about biological research and its societal impact

Learn more

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
bioadv@iu.edu