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M.S. in Microbiology

Our Master of Science (M.S) in Microbiology degree program provides students with an in-depth understanding of microorganisms, interdisciplinary research training, and opportunities to develop science communication skills. Students graduate prepared for successful careers in research, academic or industrial settings. 

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Curriculum and Courses

The Microbiology Graduate Programs at NC State are interdisciplinary. Our M.S. students take many courses taught by MGP faculty, as well as elective courses offered in numerous disciplines and departments across campus, including Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Animal Science, Food Science and Genetics.

All microbiology graduate students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. The Graduate Student Support Plan (GSSP; tuition and health benefits) also requires continuous enrollment, meaning all graduate students must enroll for a minimum of nine credits in each Fall and Spring semester to qualify. After the first year, most of these are Research credits.

In our two-year M.S. program, students need to complete 30 credits total, of which 18 credits must be graded. Completion of all credit requirements and submission of a thesis is required for students to complete the M.S. degree.

Required Course Credits for a M.S. in Microbiology

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
MB 500-800Microbiology Courses6+
MB 670Laboratory Research Methods1
MB 686Teaching Experience1
MB 601Seminar in Microbiology2
MB 695Master’s Thesis Research6
variableProfessional Development1
500-800Graded Courses
(MB or others)
All 500-700 level courses are letter graded. 800 level courses use satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading policies.

Required Courses

As listed above, students are required to register for the following:

M.S. Students are required to take at least 6 graduate-level, letter-graded microbiology (MB) credits. Courses are 3 credits each.

MGP students are able to take courses that focus on the various specialized disciplines of microbiology, including bacterial physiology, microbial genomics and metagenomics, microbiomes, environmental microbiology, immunology, host-pathogen interactions, molecular genetics and virology. Prior experience can impact which courses a student can enroll in.

Prerequisites in biochemistry are required for many of these courses, so we recommend that all microbiology graduate students have the equivalent of introductory biochemistry (BCH 553) at NC State early in the curriculum.

An example of courses that fit into two of many different microbiology “tracks” or concentrations:

Environmental/IndustrialHost-Pathogen Interactions
MB 520 Microbial Cell Bio-transformationsMB 535 Pathogenic Microbiology
MB 532 Soil MicrobiologyMB 718 Introductory Virology
MB 555 Microbial BiotechnologyMB 751 Immunology
MB 590 Symbiosis & MicrobiomesBCH 553 Biochemistry of Gene Expression
MB 505 Food MicrobiologyBCH 705 Molecular Biology of the Cell
MB 714 Metabolic RegulationBMA 771/772 Biomathematics
MB 725 Fermentation MicrobiologyCBS 712 Repro & Domestic Animal Disease
MB 758 Microbial Gen & GenomicsENT 582 Med and Veterinary Entomology
 PP 707 Plant-Microbe Interactions
 ST 511/512 Exper Statistics for Bio Sciences

As part of the requirements for the M.S. degree, students are required serve as a laboratory teaching assistant for one semester in an NCSU course. This teaching requirement should be fulfilled early in the program, and students receive one credit (MB 686) for each semester they teach. 

Example courses approved for fulfilling the teaching requirement are: MB 352, MB 412, MB 452 and BIO 181. Specific tools for enhancing teaching effectiveness are provided for teaching assistants, including workshops and constructive evaluation by the instructor and the students.

The MGP requires all its graduate students to attend Microbiology seminars throughout their degree program. All M.S. students must register for at least two semesters (two credits) of Seminar.

MB 695 provides credit for research students perform in our M.S. program.  Students may register for a variable number of MB 695 credits each semester, with a maximum of six credits allowed toward the M.S. degree.

All our 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 is required.

M.S. students can choose to take other courses offered by departments and programs throughout NC State (Biochemistry, Genetics, Statistics, etc.). Selection of elective courses is done by the student with the help of their advisory committee. Letter graded or satisfactory/unsatisfactory course formats can be used.

Below are examples of elective courses available. The graduate catalog provides a current comprehensive listing of offered courses.

  • 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 705  – Biological Scanning Electron Microscopy
  • MB(IMM) 783 – Advanced Immunology
  • MB 790I  – Practical Digital Imaging

Advisory Committees

Upon admission to the graduate program, the Director of Graduate Programs (DGP) serves as a temporary advisor for all MGP students. M.S. students must select a thesis advisor and a graduate advisory committee by the end of their first year in the program. The M.S. advisory committee consists of a student’s thesis advisor and at least two additional MGP faculty members.

All required committee members must hold appointments within the Graduate School at NC State. Students may select scientists who are not members of the Graduate School faculty (e.g., adjunct faculty, industry scientists) for their committee, but it is in addition to the required members. Graduate advisory committees must meet no less than once a year.

Graduate Plan of Work (PoW)

A Graduate Plan of Work (PoW) includes all courses, a tentative thesis title and an anticipated timetable for taking each course and must be outlined by a student and their advisor before the end of the first semester. Students then submit their PoW to their advisory committee for approval or amendment. Once approved by their committee, the PoW must be formally submitted to the Graduate School by no later than the end of a student’s first year at NC State.

Visit the Graduate School website for more information about the graduate PoW.

Annual Research Progress Reports

The MGP will facilitate scheduling an annual meeting of the student’s advisory committee, at which the student will make an oral presentation and submit a written report on their laboratory research. A Graduate Student Progress Evaluation Form will be completed by their advisory committee. A satisfactory evaluation will be necessary for the student to receive financial support and/or be able to register for the next semester.

Thesis and Defense

A written thesis is required for completion of our M.S. in Microbiology degree. Students must conform to the requirements outlined in NC State’s “Thesis and Dissertation Guide“. Thesis content and structure must be approved by a student’s advisory committee, and all degree candidates are expected to prepare their research for publication prior to completing their program.

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