M.S. in Microbiology

The Master of Science (M.S.) curriculum provides motivated students with an in-depth understanding of microbiological processes, research systems and communicating science to colleagues and the public.

Successful graduates emerge with the skills for making valuable contributions to research, education and biotechnology.


Want to Learn More? Contact Us.

For more information about the M.S. in microbiology, contact:

Dwayne Barnes
Graduate Coordinator

Michael Hyman
Director of Graduate Programs

Course Requirements

Department faculty members teach the core course requirements in microbiology as well as electives in disciplines throughout NC State University.

  • Students choose elective courses with the help of their advisory committee.
  • The continuous enrollment requirements of the Graduate School (for tuition and health benefits) requires all graduate students to enroll for nine credits in each fall and spring semester.
  • In a two-year M.S. program, students need to complete 30 credits.
  • All graduate students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0.

Students can review can visit the Graduate School website for details on the graduate student support plan (GSSP).

Required Course Credits in the M.S. Program

The microbiology graduate program requires the following course credits for the M.S. degree. All 500 and 700 level courses are letter graded. The 600 and 800 level courses use satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading policies.

Course Number Title Credits
MB 500 / 700 Multiple Courses (graded) 6+
MB 670 Laboratory Rotations 1
MB 686 Teaching Experience 1
MB 601 Seminar in Microbiology 2
MB 695 Microbiology Research 6
Various Professional Development 1
500-800 Graduate Graduate Courses (MB or others) 6+

Microbiology Courses (3 credits each)

Students can take courses that represent the various specialized disciplines of microbiology, including bacterial physiology, environmental microbiology, immunology, molecular genetics and virology. Prior experience can impact which courses in which a student enrolls, and prerequisites in biochemistry are often required for the courses.

M.S. students are required to take a minimum of 6 MB graded graduate credits, but students typically take more toward the 18 total graded credits required.

An example of courses fitting into two microbiology “tracks” or focus areas:

Environmental/Industrial Host-Pathogen Interactions
MB 520 Microbial Cell Bio-transformations MB 535 Pathogenic Microbiology
MB 532 Soil Microbiology MB 718 Introductory Virology
MB 555 Microbial Biotechnology MB 751 Immunology
MB 590 Symbiosis & Microbiomes BCH 553 Biochemistry of Gene Expression
MB 505 Food Microbiology BCH 705 Molecular Biology of the Cell
MB 714 Metabolic Regulation BMA 771/772 Biomathematics
MB 725 Fermentation Microbiology CBS 712 Repro & Domestic Animal Disease
MB 758 Microbial Gen & Genomics ENT 582 Med and Veterinary Entomology
PP 707 Plant-Microbe Interactions
ST 511/512 Exper Statistics for Bio Sciences

Graduate Elective Courses (MB 500 – 800 or others)

Students can select elective courses offered by several departments at NC State.

Letter graded or satisfactory/unsatisfactory course formats can be used. M.S. students are allowed a maximum of 6 credits in MB 695 Microbiology Research; students must earn the remaining credits from other MB or elective courses.

Students select elective courses in consultation with, and approval by, the advisory committee.

An example of available elective courses: 

Course Number Course Title
BAE 525 Industrial Microbiology & Bioprocessing
BCH 553 Biochemistry of Gene Expression
BCH 701 Macromolecular Structure
BCH 703 Macromolecular Synthesis and Regulation
BCH 705 Molecular Biology of the Cell
BIT 510 Core Technologies in Biotechnology
BIT 595X Advanced Modules in Biotechnology
GN 513 Advanced Genetics
GN 701 Molecular Genetics
GN 735 Functional Genomics
GN 850 Professionalism and Ethics
MB (PP) 730 Fungal Genetics and Physiology
MB 610 Special Topics in Microbiology
MB 620 Special Problems
MB 601/801 Seminar in Microbiology
MB 690/890 Master’s Exam/Doctoral Preliminary Examination
MB 695/895 Microbiology Research
MB 705 Biological Scanning Electron Microscopy
MB (IMM) 783 Advanced Immunology
MB 790I Practical Digital Imaging

Additional Course Requirements

Students also are required to register for the following courses:

  • MB 686 Teaching Experience (1-2 credits) – Students receive academic credit for participating as a teaching assistant in an approved course.
  • MB 695 Microbiology Research (up to 6 credits) – MB 695 provides credit for research performed in the M.S. program. Students may sign-up for a variable number of MB 695 credits each semester, with a maximum of six credits allowed toward the M.S. degree.
  • MB 601 Seminar in Microbiology (2 credits) – All graduate students are required to attend microbiology seminars throughout their degree program. M.S. students must register for at least two credits (two semesters) of seminar.

MB 590 – Other Professional Development (1 credit)

All microbiology graduate students are required to attend either the microbiology course in Professional Development and Responsible Conduct of Research, or a similar module offered in related programs (BIT, GN, etc.). One credit hour required.

[Back to Top]

Advisory Committees

The director of graduate programs (DGP) serves as a temporary advisor. Prior to completion of the first year of study, each student is required to select a thesis advisor (major professor) and a graduate advisory committee who will meet a minimum of once a year.

The M.S. advisory committee will consist of the student’s thesis advisor and at least two additional microbiology graduate faculty members. All required committee members must hold appointments within the NC State Graduate School. Scientists who are not members of the Graduate School faculty (e.g., adjunct faculty, industry scientists) may be appointed to the committee, but will be in addition to the required members.


Teaching Experience

The microbiology graduate program has established a minimum teaching responsibility as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the M.S. degree. Graduate students must serve as laboratory teaching assistants for one semester in an NC State on-campus course.

Available courses for fulfilling the teaching requirement:

  • MB 352
  • MB 412
  • MB 452
  • BIO 181

Students should fulfill this requirement as early as possible in the graduate program. One credit of MB 686 is provided for each semester the student teaches.

We provide specific tools to teaching assistants for enhancing teaching effectiveness, including workshops and constructive evaluation by the instructor and the students.

Plan of Work (POW)

The student and major professor will outline the plan of graduate study (a Plan of Work) as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the first semester. The plan will be submitted for approval or amendment by the student’s advisory committee, and will be formally submitted to the Graduate School no later than the end of the student’s first year at NC State.

A Plan of Work will include:

  • All courses
  • A tentative thesis title
  • An anticipated timetable for taking each course

[Back to Top]

Annual Research Progress Reports

The program will schedule an annual meeting of the advisory committee where the student will make an oral presentation and submit a written report on their laboratory research. The advisory committee will complete a Graduate Student Progress Evaluation Form. A satisfactory evaluation will be necessary for the student to receive departmental support and/or be able to register for the next semester.


Transferring Between Degree Programs

Students in the M.S. program may, at a later date, wish to bypass the M.S. degree and transfer into the Ph.D. program. The student must provide his/her advisory committee with sufficient evidence of research ability such as published manuscripts, published abstracts or other scientific presentations, to justify the transfer. The student must meet with the advisory committee to present current research results and research objectives for the Ph.D. dissertation. Following the meeting, a letter signed by the advisor is forwarded to the director of graduate programs (DGP) recommending transfer into the Ph.D. program. Upon approval, the student follows the requirements of the Ph.D. program, including the preliminary examination.

Students may also wish to pursue admission to the Ph.D. program following completion of the requirements for the M.S. degree in microbiology at NC State. Similarly, a student may consider transferring from the Ph.D. program into the M.S. program after a year or more in the graduate program. In either instance, a meeting of the student’s advisory committee is held to address the status of the student’s program. A letter signed by the thesis advisor is then submitted to the DGP with a specific recommendation. Notification of admission or change in program will then be made by letter to the student and his/her advisor.

Any other transfers between degree programs must receive approval from the student’s advisory committee and a recommendation submitted to the DGP.

Thesis and Defense

Students must write a thesis on their research prior to completing the M.S. degree program. The thesis must conform to the regulations in the NC State Thesis and Dissertation Guide. The advisory committee must approve the content and structure of the thesis, and all degree candidates are expected to prepare their research results for publication prior to completing their program.

In addition to preparing a thesis, M.S. candidates are encouraged (but not required) to present a seminar on their research around the time they defend their thesis with the advisory committee. M.S. students may register for MB 690 (Master’s Exam) in the semester they expect to defend. Subject to the satisfactory defense of the M.S. thesis, the advisory committee will approve it for transmittal to the Graduate School.