• Uropathogenic E. coli expressing pyelonephritis-associated pili. Courtesy of Low Lab. Credit: David Low

Microbiology (MCDB)

Microbiology is the study of the properties, characteristics, and interactions of micro-organisms and their effects on other organisms and the environment. Microbiology has been and continues to be at the forefront of those fields and technologies that contribute to human welfare and to our understanding of the basic mechanisms of life processes.

The Major

Students may select one of three emphases within the Microbiology major: general microbiology, biomedical sciences, or genetic engineering.

General Microbiology

Provides students with a broad-knowledge base regarding the fundamental principles and diversity of microorganisms. These studies emphasize the contribution of microbiology to our basic understanding of fundamental life processes and provide insight into how microbiology impacts our everyday lives. Additionally, this knowledge base prepares students for graduate work and careers in food, industrial, marine, and pharmacological microbiology.

Biomedical Sciences

Provides general training in microbiology and specialized instruction in the fundamental principles of pathogenic microorganisms. Presently, emerging infectious diseases pose a major threat to world health and contribute to increased health care costs. Training in biomedical sciences offers many career opportunities in biomedical fields such as clinical microbiology, medical technology, medicine, and public health.

Genetic Engineering

Provides general training in microbiology and specialized training in the methodology of recombinant DNA research. Students are exposed to state-of-the-art techniques in biotechnology, including DNA sequencing, gene cloning, and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This training is directly applicable to careers in the new and expanding fields of biotechnology, biomedical research, and clinical microbiology.

Students planning to major in microbiology enter as a biological sciences premajor and take a common core curriculum consisting of introductory biology, general chemistry, mathematics, physics, and organic chemistry. Students should complete this preparatory work in their freshman and sophomore years. Following successful completion of seven of these courses, students may advance from biology premajor to full microbiology major status.

The Microbiology major requires completion of upper-division coursework in genetics, microbiology, biochemistry, immunology, and virology. Students must also take elective coursework in one of three emphases. Electives are available in the areas of mycology (the study of fungi), marine microbiology, medical microbiology, parasitology, and recombinant DNA methods. Students should review the full requirement sheet for the major and emphasis they intend to declare and plan their schedules accordingly.

Careers in Microbiology

Microbiology is a dynamic field which has grown rapidly both with regard to fundamental knowledge and its application to medicine, agriculture, and industry. Dozens of biotechnology companies, formed to exploit these advances, provide employment for students with suitable training at the bachelor's level. New industries devoted to genetic engineering offer microbiologists excellent career opportunities. Microbiologists are also in great demand in clinical microbiology.

Students interested in the health sciences and related professions can take advantage of the University's excellent health science advisory system located in Cheadle Hall. They can seek advice and support from the beginning of their studies in biology to their entrance into health sciences graduate programs and professional schools.

Students interested in teaching biological sciences and conducting research at a university should plan to complete the Ph.D. degree. Students interested in teaching at a community college should pursue graduate work at least through the master's degree. Teaching at the junior high or high school (secondary) level requires the California single subject teaching credential. Students considering this last option should discuss their plans with the credential advisor in UCSB's Graduate School of Education early in their academic careers.

High School Preparation

Recommended as part of or in addition to the UC admission requirements:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of chemistry
  • Mathematics through trigonometry
  • One year of physics

Transfer Preparation

To make normal progress in the major, complete the following courses in your first two years:

  • One year sequence of general chemistry with laboratory
  • One year sequence of general biology with laboratory
  • One year sequence of calculus
  • One year sequence of organic chemistry with laboratory
  • One year sequence of physics with laboratory

Please see the UCSB General Catalog or your high school or community college counselor for more information on course preparation.

Additional Information

For further information please consult one of the biology undergraduate academic advisors.


Voice: (805) 893-5191
Email: bio-adv@lifesci.ucsb.edu


Biology Undergraduate Program
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9620