Microbiology is the branch of biology that studies the smallest living things: bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, and viruses. It also studies immunology—how higher organisms respond to foreign substances.

This is an excellent major for undergraduate students who want a good general education with an emphasis on an important and interesting branch of biology. It also is an excellent major for students who plan to pursue advanced degrees in medicine, dentistry, or another health profession.

Examples of what microbiologists do include:

  • Environmental microbiologists who identify organisms and conduct research on their uses, such as cleaning up oil spills and hazardous wastes. They also develop genetic probes that can detect microbial contaminants in the water supply.
  • Agricultural microbiologists who work to develop disease-resistant crops or produce vaccines to protect livestock from disease. They also identify organisms that can reduce dependence on chemical pesticides.
  • Medical microbiologists and virologists who identify and study the microorganisms that cause diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, and toxic shock syndrome.
  • Immunologists who contribute to a better understanding of the immune response and to the development of vaccines.

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa’s microbiology program has a solid national reputation. One of the department’s strengths is the large number of research opportunities it offers to undergraduates. If you major in microbiology, you'll arrange research through faculty members and you'll conduct it in the department’s laboratories. Besides being fun and interesting, research experience will give you an advantage if you apply for science positions in industry or to graduate programs in the sciences.

You'll study with some of the department's 34 faculty members, who teach and perform research in bacterial pathogenesis, immunology, microbial genetics and physiology, parasitology, and virology.

You also will be able to join the Microbiology Undergraduate Student Association (MUSA), which supports microbiology students. Each year several MUSA members attend the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Course Work

Course work for the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in microbiology includes courses in:

  • Microbiology
  • Biological sciences
  • Chemistry and organic chemistry
  • Biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Physics
  • Biostatistics or calculus

You'll be encouraged to conduct research for credit, and you also might take additional course work in subjects such as statistics, physical chemistry, or computer science, depending on what you plan to do after graduation.

See Microbiology in the UI General Catalog to learn more about the required courses for the major and graduating with honors.

Minor in Microbiology

See Microbiology in the UI General Catalog.

Admission Requirements

Students in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to having nearly 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Living-Learning Communities, Study Abroad Programs, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

One of the advantages offered by the Microbiology major is the opportunity to do research for credit in the laboratory of one of our faculty. We have faculty actively engaged in research in bacteriology, virology, parasitology, and immunology. Students are trained to pursue projects at the cutting edge of their fields, and these experiences help to make students more competitive for jobs and for admission to graduate and professional training programs, including medical school. Students doing research also can apply for competitive scholarship support from the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU).


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

Microbiology majors find jobs in government, hospitals, public health laboratories, research laboratories, and industrial laboratories (dairy, food, chemical, genetic engineering, and pharmaceutical companies).

If you go on to graduate study in microbiology, you'll have career opportunities in the same areas, with greater responsibilities and higher salaries as well as possibilities for college and university teaching.


The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Microbiology (BS)
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan