Skip to main content

Microbiology Major

Studying the smallest organisms to solve the world's biggest problems.

Microbiology Major

Studying the smallest organisms to solve the world's biggest problems.

A pair of gloved hands prepare petri dishes with agar to study bacterial behavior.

Our microbiology major enrolls about 200 students and is the only bachelor's of science degree in microbiology offered in Oregon. As a microbiology major, you will study beneficial and disease-causing bacteria, archaea, viruses and parasites in the context of human, plant and animal disease and the environment.

We offer two options for microbiology majors that wish to specialize. A pre-medicine option will prepare you for medical school if you are interested in a career in medicine. If you are more interested in environmental science, the aquatic microbiology option provides you with a background in the microbial processes of aquatic systems and prepares you for careers in environmental resource fields in industry, government and academia.

There are so many opportunities to explore the world of microbiology in our department. Our faculty address environmental and medical problems by studying organisms at the scale of the cell, the host and the environment. Our human health researchers study bacterial communication, microbiome evolution and function, food-borne illnesses and intracellular pathogens. Our environmental researchers study the effects of microbes on the health of fish populations, coral reefs, and systems biology of ocean bacteria. We encourage you to take advantage of the many opportunities available for undergraduate research with any of our faculty.

What will you do as a microbiology major?

Microbiology students at OSU study with and conduct research alongside faculty renowned for their pioneering work on virology and immunology to address daunting environmental, medical and molecular biological problems. As a microbiology major, you will gain a foundational understanding of infectious and beneficial organisms that play a role in human and environmental health. Through coursework and laboratory training, you will also learn about microbiology applications in the areas of environment, medicine, healthcare, agriculture and animal health.

Originating with a single course in bacteriology in 1899, today the Department of Microbiology is internationally renowned for pathbreaking research in the areas of the microbiology of aquatic environments, the microbiome, and food and environmental microbiology. You will have extensive opportunities to engage in undergraduate research, international study programs, internships, and conduct field studies that span environmental sciences, human and animal health, ocean ecosystems and medicine. Through a wide range of core and elective courses, you will engage in both theoretical and experimental learning from outstanding teachers and researchers.

The microbiology major has a built-in chemistry minor to provide students with a broad background in the physical sciences and enhance their skills as scientists.

Microbiology Options

The pre-medicine option in microbiology will help prepare a student for taking the standardized test required for medical school application (MCAT), as well as provide an additional perspective in the humanities that is valued by medical programs.

Learn more about the Pre-Medicine option

The aquatic microbiology option is for students with an interest in the microbiology of water habitats. Students will gain foundational knowledge of stream, estuarine and marine ecosystems and their microbial processes by taking core oceanography and aquatic systems courses.

Learn more about the Aquatic Microbiology option

Careers in microbiology

A B.S. degree in microbiology will provide you excellent job opportunities: three months after graduation, 95% of our recent graduates have been employed in a microbiology-related field or accepted to a program for further education (graduate school or medical, dental and pharmacy school). A microbiology degree will prepare you for jobs in national labs, environmental and natural resource agencies, research institutes, food and pharmaceutical industries and the non-profit sector.

Careers of recent graduates

  • Research Microbiologist for the Food and Drug Administration
  • Laboratory Analytical Specialist at the Portland Water Bureau
  • Medical students at Cornell, Ohio State University, Royal College of Surgeons
  • Graduate students at New York University, OHSU, Max Planck Institute, Germany
  • Infectious Disease Medical Specialist at Samaritan Regional Medical Center
  • Resident Physician at OHSU, Mayo Clinic
  • Principal Scientist at SmartPhage Inc
  • Software Engineer at Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Content Specialist at, LLC
  • Senior Quality Control Scientist at WR Grace and Co.

Degree requirements

Microbiology majors must have a minimum of 36 credits in upper division microbiology with a 2.0 minimum GPA. All students must take MB 302, 303, 310, 311, 312 and MB 490.

After completing these required courses, 20 credits of 400-level microbiology classes are required and two credits must be from a 400-level laboratory class. BOT 350 (BOT 451 starting Fall 2023; Introduction to Plant Pathology), BOT 461 (Mycology) and MB 314 (Aquatic Microbiology) count as 400-level MB classes. Research (MB 401), Thesis (MB 403), Reading and Conference (MB 405), and Internship (MB 410) can count for 3 credits; and Teaching Assistantship (MB 406) can be used for 3 additional credits. Speak with an advisor prior to registering for these courses. Any additional credits in these areas will count as general electives. All required courses must be taken for a grade. See your advisor for further details.

    Sample courses

    • The Human Microbiome
    • Bacterial physiology and metabolism
    • Immunology
    • Virology
    Chloe Villagomez wearing a grad cap and gown for graduation.

    “I want to thank my microbiology professors for sparking my interest in this field and for teaching such mentally stimulating but also extremely fun classes/labs with very up-to-date science!”

    Chloe Villagomez (Microbiology, B.S. '17), research scientist at Juno Therapeutics, a biotech company in Seattle, Washington.

    Meet our students and alumni

    Microbiology graduate gives back to communities that have shaped him

    Oregon State's College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) made all the difference in engaging microbiology major Bruno Salas Garcia in his college experience. A first-generation student, he is on track to dental school and plans to serve rural communities similar to where he grew up.

    Pivoting a career to become a physician and give back along the way

    Kendra Krebs's interest in science started when she worked as a hair stylist in a salon. Now, this microbiology senior has her sights set on medical school.

    Oregon State University scientists shed new light on viruses' role in coral bleaching

    Scientists at Oregon State University have shown that viral infection is involved in coral bleaching – the breakdown of the symbiotic relationship between corals and the algae they rely on for energy.

    Microbiology alumna and surgeon's journey from refugee camps to healthcare leadership

    In her role as a Health Innovators Fellow at the Aspen Institute, Kuy developed a Covid-19 Preparation Tool to help healthcare facilities, businesses and communities rapidly gauge their preparedness for the outbreak, identify areas of weakness and strategically target resources for their greatest impact.

    Oregon's top pre-med program meets the growing demand for doctors

    The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a surging interest in science and medicine, attracting a new generation of students to a career in medicine. Enrollment in the College of Science’s pre-med program at Oregon State University has also remained high, with numbers averaging 90-100 pre-med students annually since 2019.

    Meet a Science Grad: Steven Kurtz

    Meet Steven Kurtz, BioHealth Sciences alumnus who is studying to become a physician assistant and extreme sports enthusiast.

    Next steps