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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.

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.

The BASICS: Microbiology

Fun fact: Our undergraduate microbiology major is the only Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology offered in the state of Oregon.

Microbiology is the scientific study of microorganisms. This major explores how microorganisms live, grow and interact with their environments. It delves into the tiny, unseen aspects of life that have a big impact on our lives, from causing infections to helping us produce and preserve our food.

A Bachelor of Science in microbiology will provide you excellent job opportunities. 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. In fact, three months after graduation, 95% of recent OSU microbiology 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).

Microbiologists' expertise in bacteria, viruses and parasites serves to address environmental, medical and molecular biological problems. Work is typically performed either in a lab or in the field, so research skills are a must when it comes to microbiology careers.

Want to know more about what microbiologists do? Check out research happening right here at OSU. Our work covers the following realms:

  • Applied microbiology
  • Aquatic microbiology and ecology
  • Cellular metabolism and interaction
  • Microbes, microbiomes and health
  • Microbial informatics and data science
  • Microbial threats to food security
Check out research in the Department of Microbiology
Student working in lab with samples in Petri dish.

The PROGRAM: Studying microbiology at Oregon State

OSU microbiology students study with and conduct research alongside faculty renowned for their pioneering work on virology and immunology. You'll have extensive opportunities to engage in undergraduate research, international study programs and internships. You will also have opportunities to conduct field studies spanning environmental sciences, human and animal health, ocean ecosystems and medicine. The microbiology major even has a built-in chemistry minor to provide a background in the physical sciences and enhance your skills as a scientist.

Fun fact: Our medical school acceptance rate is 67 percent, well above the national average of 40 percent!

As a microbiology major, you may elect to complete one of the transcript-visible degree options below, although an option is not required:

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.

Learn more about your microbiology curriculum

Wondering what kind of classes you'll take? Your microbiology major includes in-depth curriculum, including courses like

  • Bacterial Molecular Genetics
  • Aquatic Microbiology
  • Disease and Society
Microbiology courses

Want to know more about coursework requirements? Use the OSU Catalog to learn more about:

  • your typical sequence of courses
  • what pre-requisite courses you'll need
  • your major's core curriculum
Microbiology course requirements

What does your four-year course load look like as a microbiology major? Check out this sample plan for one example of how to map out your academic journey.

Microbiology major: sample plan

WATCH: Meet a microbiology major

Meet Jai, a microbiology major and transfer student. Jai shares her experiences that include fascinating microbiology labs, working with advisors and faculty, prepping for a rewarding career and more.

The EXPERIENCE: Hands-on opportunities

What makes a microbiology degree from Oregon State better? One big reason: Our hands-on learning experiences! Science is often a competitive career field — these experiences give you the real-world skills to support your future goals.

Undergraduate Research

This is your chance to see up close what it means to be a scientist. Don’t just study science in the classroom — get in a lab and contribute to it, working alongside world-class faculty!

Learn why undergraduate research is better here


Practice your science in a professional setting. An internship with a real-world employer is the perfect opportunity to experience what your future career in science could look like.

Learn about amazing internship opportunities

Study Abroad

Our students’ work spans the globe! Immerse yourself in another culture to gain a global perspective in your studies.

Take your science studies around the world


Here’s your chance to discover like-minded communities of peers who share your interests! Come together and engage in meaningful ways.

Connect with a club and more members of Team Science

The SUPPORT: Learning resources for science students

Team Science is here to help you thrive. Our student support is another reason we always say, "science is better at Oregon State." You'll have access to a huge array of support services and resources designed to thrive both in and out of the classroom. Here are some places to get started:

Student resources

At OSU, support comes in a LOT of forms — here's where to start. From our Science Success Center to health and wellness resources, connect with the support you need to thrive as a college student.

Check out our student resources page

Learning Assistant (LA) Program

Love learning in smaller, collaborative group settings? Our Learning Assistant Program combines small-school attention with big-school resources. Your LA group replaces traditional lecture formats with active learning strategies, maximizing the way you engage with your STEM courses.

Explore our Learning Assistant Program

Tutoring Centers

Our tutoring centers are welcoming, friendly spaces where peer and faculty mentors offer guidance and share study techniques to help you grasp course materials and improve your academic performance.

Learn more about our science-focused tutoring centers


Microbiology advisors aim to work in partnership with you and help you to tend to the logistics of getting your degree, maximize your educational experience and set the stage for life after you graduate. They'll help with selecting courses, getting engaged in campus and academic culture and finding learning experiences outside of the classroom.

Visit the department's advising page

And of course, you can always reach out to our student Peer Advisors at with questions, as well! Our Peer Advisor team is friendly, helpful and can share their first-hand knowledge of the Oregon State experience.

The PAYOFF: Careers in microbiology

What jobs can you get with a microbiology degree?

With a microbiology degree from OSU, you’ll be able to embark on a number of career paths.

Here are just several examples of career pathways our microbiology alumni have followed:

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

The PROOF: Successful microbiology 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.

Download Microbiology brochure 2022 (PDF)