What is Microbiology

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Microbiologists Study Organisms Smaller Than the Eye Can See

Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are living things (or non-living biological particles that act on living things) too small to be seen by the naked eye. The science of microbiology includes the study of algae, bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, among other organisms. Immunology, a branch of microbiology, is the study of the anatomy, development and function of the immune system, essential to understanding disease.

Microorganisms and their activities affect almost every aspect of our lives, from nutrition and climate change to the causes and control of diseases. Research in microbiology can help us meet global challenges such as food, health and energy security for the world's population. Microbiology can help us answer the big questions such as, "How diverse is life on earth?" and "Does life exist elsewhere in the universe?"

Taking a Microbiology Class

You'll attend lectures and spend time in a laboratory looking at tiny organisms through a microscope. Nursing students and pre-med students usually take at least one class in microbiology. Some students take microbiology as an elective to fulfill the requirements for a degree in another branch of science. Most colleges and universities require at least one semester of biology as a prerequisite.

Majoring in Microbiology

Students study microbiology at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels. Coursework and related fields include math, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, bioinformatics, genetics, biotechnology, medical microbiology and molecular biology. Employers across a wide range of industries value the analytical, scientific and problem-solving skills of individuals with degrees in microbiology.

In a two-year associate's degree program, students typically take courses in math, chemistry, biology, physics, life sciences and computer science. Graduates often go on to become laboratory assistants.

During a four-year baccalaureate program, students pursue math and sciences in greater depth. With a bachelor of science, you'll find more job opportunities, including employment as a medical or veterinary technologist, research associate, quality assurance technologist, and as a food, industrial or environmental microbiologist.

With a master's degree in microbiology, you'll have an even wider range of job options in administration, teaching, technical support, and sales and marketing.

With a Ph.D., microbiologists can find jobs as scientists, research directors, and college and university professors.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job outlook for microbiologists is average when compared with other occupations. Microbiologists typically enter the field with bachelor's degrees. The median salary, which includes individuals with associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, is $66,850 annually. Most microbiologists work full-time and have regular business hours.