Skip to content

Biology – Microbiology Major Guide for 2016-2017

What is Biology – Microbiology

Microbiology is one of the fastest growing areas of science.  It is the study of organisms so small that they must be viewed with a microscope. These organisms include bacteria, yeasts, molds, protozoa and viruses. Many important scientific discoveries of recent years have been made by microbiologists: since 1910, one-third of the Nobel Prizes in medicine and physiology have been awarded to microbiologists. Microbiology is a broad field which includes:

  1. Pathogenic microbiology—the study of microbial-host interactions which influence disease and immunity
  2. Environmental microbiology— the role of micro-organisms in nature and relationships between organisms, including microbiomes
  3. Environmental biotechnology—the use of micro-organisms to address environmental problems
  4. Food microbiology—the use of micro-organisms in food production
  5. Virology—the study of viruses of both eukaryotes (higher organisms like humans, plants, and fungi) and prokaryotes (bacteria)
  6. Immunology – the study of how the human immune system responds to and eliminates pathogens.

Career Opportunities in Biology – Microbiology

Microbiologists are in high demand in health care professions, agricultural and food industries, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies such as National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control. Microbiologists also find positions as professional research scientists, teachers, science writers, technical librarians, managers of scientific companies, and environmental engineers.  Some of these professions require advanced degrees. The concentration in Microbiology is designed to furnish necessary experience in academic and practical skills to prepare graduates for immediate entry into the job market or for continuing graduate education in pure or applied biological sciences.

Salary Trends in Biology – Microbiology

As with other life scientists, salaries for microbiologists are commensurate with education, experience and residential cost-of-living.  Median salaries for microbiologists range from $30,000 to $74,000, with higher wages generally earned in government and health-related professions.  Salaries for entry level B.S. graduates are quite variable but average over $30,000/year.

High School Preparation

High school preparation for microbiology is the same as that for any biological science. Students need a solid background in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math. Advanced placement classes are also useful. In addition, opportunities to participate in science enrichment programs which involve research projects either in the laboratory or in the field will also help prepare students for a microbiology major. Basic computer skills including word processing, spreadsheet management, and familiarity with the Internet as an information resource are all useful skills that will facilitate the transition from high school to the university.

Requirements for Biology – Microbiology

Microbiology consists of 32 hours including Chemistry 350-360-369, Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 401, Microbiology 321, ­329, and 15 additional hours of upper division Microbiology and elective courses.  Upper division courses include advanced classes in virology, microbial genetics, immunology, pathogenic microbiology, microbial ecology, and microbial physiology.  In addition, students may participate in courses (401 and 402) where they work with individual professors on original research projects in the professor’s laboratory.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

An honors option is offered to selected students who have completed the required 300-level Microbiology courses with a minimum GPA of 3.3 in Microbiology courses and a 3.25 cumulative GPA. In addition to the aforementioned course requirements, an honors major requires successful completion of three additional hours of 400-­level Microbiology courses and completion of 12 hours of upper division honors courses. The latter may be satisfied with 400-level microbiology courses via honors-by-contract. The hallmark of the honors option is completion of a thesis based on an independent research project, taken under the auspices of 401 and 402. Opportunities for fellowships to support summer research are available from the microbiology department, as well as the University’s Office of Research & Engagement. In addition, summer internships are available in the laboratories of many faculty members.

Highlights of Biology – Microbiology

The microbiology department is comprised of a diverse faculty of internationally recognized scientists who are outstanding both as teachers as well as research scientists. Students have the opportunity to participate in research in various areas, including aquatic and sediment microbiology, bio remediation and detection of pathogens in the environment. Opportunities for participating in biomedical research are found in the areas of virology, microbial pathogenesis, emerging pathogens, innate and acquired immunity, and the development of antimicrobial agents.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad. Studying abroad options do exist for science majors! Possibilities include (but are not limited to) studying parasitology in Botswana, environmental chemistry in Fiji, igneous petrology in Iceland, or particle accelerator physics in London. In addition to taking science courses abroad, many science majors have elected to fulfill their language requirement and/or general education courses overseas.

Consult an academic advisor early in your academic career about the best time for you to study abroad as well as what courses you may need to take. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Experience Learning

Experience Learning LogoExperience Learning is a bold new initiative with the goal of transforming the educational student experience at the University of Tennessee. Over a five-year period, UT will transform our culture to give students more opportunities to be involved in civic engagement, solve complex real-world problems, and contribute to the welfare of their communities as part of their regular course work.

The purpose of Experience Learning is to help students apply the knowledge, skills, and values learned in the classroom to real-world challenges. Experience Learning also seeks to engage student learning through direct experience and intense reflection to increase knowledge, acquire lifelong learning and problem-solving skills, and elucidate values.

Learn more about Experience Learning.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-year, full-time degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

Report an accessibility barrier