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.

Student working in lab with samples in Petri dish.

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.

Through the microbiology major, you will engage in the study of bacteria, viruses and parasites to address environmental, medical and molecular biological problems. 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.

Meet a microbiology major

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.

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.

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.

What can you do with a microbiology degree: Careers of our 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.

Sample courses

The Human Microbiome
Bacterial physiology and metabolism

Chloe Villagomez standing on campus wearing Graduation cap

“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

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.


Next steps

Download Microbiology brochure 2022 (PDF)