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Biology - Microbiology Major Guide for 2008-2009

What is Biology - Microbiology

Microbiology, one of the fastest growing areas of science, 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 of the most 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 3) Environmental biotechnology—the use of micro-organisms to address environmental problems 4) Food microbiology—the use of micro-organisms in food production and 5) Microbial genomics—the study of evolutionary and taxonomic relationships between micro-organisms.

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 teachers, science writers, technical librarians, or managers of scientific companies. 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

Salaries for microbiologists in Tennessee as of January 2003 ranged from $32,976 to $62,159 with an average of $47,161. Salaries in big cities and in California tend to be higher. For example Microbiologists in Atlanta, Georgia, earn from $40,930 to $77,152 (CareerBuilder. com). A study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology in 1995 reported the following starting salaries for microbiologists:
B.S. level $23,000+
M.S. level $29,000+
Ph D level $46,000+
However, starting salaries have increased considerably since then. In addition, recent concern over bioterrorism has created many more career opportunities for microbiologists.

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 which will facilitate the transition from high school to the university.

How to Major in Biology - Microbiology

Microbiology is a concentration within the biological sciences division. To declare this major, students must complete Chemistry 120-130 and Biology 111-112 or 130 with a minimum grade of C.
Prerequisites for the Microbiology concentration include:

  • Chemistry 120-130
  • Physics 221-222
  • Mathematics 141-142 or 151-152
  • Biology 130 or Botany 111-112
  • Biology 140-240-250

Requirements for Biology - Microbiology

Microbiology consists of 34 hours including Chemistry 350-360-369, Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 401, Microbiology 310-319, 320­329, and 12 additional hours of 400-level Microbiology courses. 

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 3.5 in Microbiology courses and a 3.2 cumulative GPA. In addition to these 300-level courses, an honors major requires successful completion of fifteen additional hours of 400­level Microbiology courses, including 401 and 402. Opportunities for fellowships to support summer research are available from the microbiology department. 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 field studies in areas of aquatic microbiology, as well as to participate in studies involving bioremediation and detection of pathogens in the environment. Opportunities for participating in biomedical research are found in the areas of microbial pathogenesis, tropical medicine, 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 website ( or the Ready for the World website ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. 
Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad.  Visit the Programs Abroad Office website ( for information on study abroad opportunities.

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.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
English Composition 6
Math 141, 142 or Math 151, 152 6-8
Biology 130 or Biology 111-112 4-8
Chemistry 120, 130 8
Biology 140 4
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Biology 240, 250 8
Chemistry 350, 360, 369 8
Physics 221, 222 8
Foreign Language 6
Communicating Orally 3
Junior Year Credit Hours
Foreign Language or General Electives 4-6
Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 401 4
Microbiology 310, 319 5
Microbiology 320, 329 5
Humanities 6
Non-US History Sequence 6
Senior Year Credit Hours
Microbiology (major 400 level) 12
Social Sciences 6
Upper Level Distribution 6
Upper Division Electives 2
Communicating Through Writing 3
GRAND TOTAL (minimum) 120

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.