Microbiology is the study of organisms that are too small to be seen by the unaided human eye. Such organisms include protozoa, algae, fungi, lichens, bacteria and viruses. Microbiology is one of the most important and exciting of the biological sciences. Not only is it a basic biological science, which has provided us with much of our understanding of the chemical and physical principles behind living processes, but it is also an applied biological science, dealing with aspects of medicine, agriculture, biotechnology, food technology and pollution control.
In the microbiology major, you will study the diversity of the microbial world, how microbes grow and function, their genetics and genomics, their ecology and their interactions with other organisms.
For more information on the program structure and content, view the Science Undergraduate Handbook.
Please note that discipline units in Microbiology begin at intermediate level (ie. second year).
You will start preparing for your intermediate and senior units in microbiology by including biology, mathematics, chemistry and molecular biology and genetics among your first year junior units. It is a good idea to plan ahead and have an idea of which senior units you need to complete, so that you can plan your junior and intermediate prerequisite units accordingly.
You will take intermediate units of study from the microbiology subject area, which are prerequisites for your senior units of study. Your studies will cover food microbiology, the microbiology of health and disease, industrial microbiology and biotechnology.
Example second year units
Microbes in Society
In order to successfully complete a microbiology major, you must complete at least 24 credit points of senior units of study from the microbiology subject area. You will be covering microbes in infection, virology, pathogens, and microbial biotechnology.
Example third year units
Microbes in Infection
Molecular Microbiology Concepts
Molecular Microbiology Research Skills
Medical and Applied Virology
Employment opportunities for microbiology graduates are diverse. You can find work in teaching and research organisations, such as schools, universities, CSIRO, departments of agriculture and biotechnology companies and you can participate in major programs of applied or basic research.
You might start your career in the fields of medical and public health microbiology in hospitals, private pathology laboratories, and government health services. Alternatively, you might find employment as a technical representative for laboratory supply houses, in the pharmaceutical industry, in sterility testing and quality control, and in the wine, brewing and dairy industries. In recent years employment opportunities in environmental microbiology have also been increasing.
Some recent microbiology graduates have been employed by organisations such as the London School of Tropical Medicine, CSIRO, the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, Sydney Water, Mauri Foods Research and Procter and Gamble.
Further study for major
Many microbiology graduates choose to continue their studies and undertake honours and postgraduate work towards a higher degree.
If you are eligible, a research honours year is the perfect way to find out whether you have the aptitude or ability for research in a specialised area of microbiology and allows you to focus on the intellectual and practical challenges of a research project by conducting original research under the supervision of a member of our academic staff, culminating in the presentation of a thesis. The School of Molecular Bioscience offers microbiology honours projects in a wide range of research areas including molecular microbiology, microbial genetics, applied and environmental microbiology, biotechnology, and virology.
If you do well enough in your honours year, you might be eligible to apply for a higher research program like a PhD, and take your studies of microbiology even further. The School of Molecular Bioscience cultivates a research-based culture and offers the following microbiology related areas of research: development of microbial biocatalysts; genetics of the bacterial cell envelope; evolutionary origins of variation in bacterial species; fungal proteomics, and much more.
Related subject areas
Anatomy and Histology