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 Iowa?

Iowa's microbiology program has a solid national reputation. One of the advantages offered by the microbiology major is the large number of opportunities to do research for credit in the laboratory of one of our faculty.

Our faculty teach and are actively engaged in research in bacteriology, microbial genetics, virology, parasitology, immunology, and physiology. Students are trained to pursue projects at the cutting edge of their fields, and these experiences make them 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 Office of Undergraduate Research.

Admission Requirements

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


  Honors Courses
  Four-Year Graduation Plan
Admission Process

Careers and Outcomes

Iowa graduates have a 95 percent job/grad school placement rate within six months of graduation. 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
  • 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.

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 500 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from more than 100 Study Abroad Programs, and multiple Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

You may 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.


The University of Iowa provides a variety of scholarships to eligible undergraduate students through the Iowa Scholarship Portal. Scholarships are available to first-year, transfer, and currently enrolled students. For additional details on scholarships for your program of study, check directly with the department or college. 

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


Course work for the BS degree in microbiology includes:

  • 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.

All students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who wish to earn a bachelor's degree must complete the requirements of the GE CLAS Core

View Microbiology in the UI General Catalog to learn more about required coursework for the major or minor and graduating with honors.