Microbiology, Bachelor of Science

Department of Biological Sciences

College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

Ever since Van Leeuwenhoek described the “cavorting wee beasties” seen through his simple 1670s-style microscope, scientists have been fascinated by tiny life forms. This degree allows students to join those who explore the world of bacteria, viruses, mitochondria, neurons, and genetic material. A strong core of biology and chemistry anchors the program, which offers flexibility through a generous selection of approved electives.

  • To receive a bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete at least 120 units of credit that minimally includes a major, the liberal studies requirements, and university requirements as listed below.

    • All of Northern Arizona University's diversity, liberal studies, junior-level writing, and capstone requirements.
    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s).
    • At least 30 units of upper-division courses, which may include transfer work.
    • At least 30 units of coursework taken through Northern Arizona University, of which at least 18 must be upper-division courses (300-level or above). This requirement is not met by credit-by-exam, retro-credits, transfer coursework, etc.
    • A cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 on all work attempted at Northern Arizona University.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • At least 71 units of major requirements

  • Up to 9 units of major prefix courses may be used to satisfy Liberal Studies requirements; these same courses may also be used to satisfy major requirements.

  • Elective courses, if needed, to reach an overall total of at least 120 units.

Students may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

Minimum Units for Completion 120
Major GPA C
Highest Mathematics Required MAT 125
Fieldwork Experience/Internship Optional
Research Optional
University Honors Program Optional
AZ Transfer Students complete AGEC-A Recommended
Progression Plan Link View Progression Plan

Purpose Statement

The Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology consists of a series of Life Science foundation courses followed by advanced courses that survey a range of microbiological sub-disciplines.  These include courses focused on the interaction between microorganisms and human disease, such as infectious diseases, medical microbiology, and immunology but also courses that investigate the role of microbes in the environment including environmental microbiology, microbial ecology and industrial microbiology and biotechnology. From bioremediation to virology, students will develop an understanding of biological and chemical systems of microorganisms — and develop a foundation for a career in a range of professions that involve microbiology.
The Life Sciences Core is designed to provide the student with a strong grounding in biology, chemistry and mathematics. The student, in consultation with an academic advisor and using a basic course schedule as a guideline, may select from elective microbiology courses relevant to a range of disciplinary areas and career fields, such as Immunobiology, Medical Microbiology, Microbial Ecology, Bioinformatics, and Virology; or design his or her own set of electives approved by one of the program academic advisors. 
Numerous undergraduate research opportunities involve you in the process and application of science in research areas at NAU’s research centers and institutes, such as the Center for Microbial Genetics & Genomics (MGGen),  and the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (EcoSS). Due to the rigorous nature of our program, our graduates are well prepared for medical schools, careers in government agencies, or graduate programs.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to communicate scientific information effectively, especially relating to microbiological organisms, and the roles of microbial organisms in ecosystem function and health-related issues
  • Students will be able to collect, analyze and interpret scientific data, including developing a familiarity with microbiology laboratory techniques and safety procedures
  • Students will develop proficiency in the quantitative skills necessary to analyze biological problems (e.g., arithmetic, algebra, dimensional analysis, and statistical analysis as applied to biology), with a knowledge of specialized techniques used in microbiology
  • Students will be able to apply the scientific method as a demonstration that they understand its application furthering our knowledge of the microbial world
  • Students will be able to describe fundamental principles of biology e.g., central dogma, diversity of life, inheritance and how these principles relate to microorganisms
  • Students will be able to describe unique microbial genetic systems (i.e., prokaryotic and viral genomes, lateral gene transfer, plasmid structure and function, etc.)
  • Students will appreciate the biological diversity of microbial forms, and appreciate that this diversity results from evolutionary processes
  • Students will be able to access and interrogate the primary scientific literature and be aware of leading journals in the field of microbiology
  • Students will be able to synthesize material from lower division courses across a biological sub-discipline and apply this to advanced course material (i.e., a Capstone experience); specifically, students will draw from their learning experiences in the fields of microbial ecology & evolution, microbial physiology, bioremediation, immunology, etc., as related to the topic of their capstone course
  • Students will gain familiarity with the unique role of microbes play in genetic modification technologies (i.e., creation of GMOs, industrial applications, gene therapy, etc.)
  • Students will gain familiarity with the role of microbes in human disease, the role of microbes in issues of international health, and the human immune response to microbial infection
  • Students will gain familiarity with the role of microbes in the context of ecosystem function (e.g., microbial ecology, microbiome, etc.)

Major Requirements
  • Select additional coursework from the following (including up to six units of non-BIO prefix courses) (8-9 units):

  • Select a math combination:

    Select a physics sequence:

    Please note:

    • All prerequisite coursework must be completed with grades of C or better.
    • The Department of Biological Sciences does not allow dual majors within the department.
    • If you are considering a minor, 18 units of the qualifying chemistry satisfy the requirements for the minor in Chemistry.
General Electives
  • Additional coursework is required if, after you have met the previously described requirements, you have not yet completed a total of 120 units of credit.

    You may take these remaining courses from any of the academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. You may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.

    We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you.

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.