Microbiology Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Microbiology?

Microbiology is the study of all living organisms that are too small to be visible to the naked eye. This includes bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa and algae, collectively known as microbes.

Microorganisms are most famous for their ability to cause disease but microorganisms are also vital to agriculture, industry and ecology.

By understanding microbes, microbiologists aim to solve a range of problems affecting our health, the environment, climate and food and agriculture. This can include the prevention, diagnosis and control of infections and disease, as well as ensuring that food is safe, understanding the role that microbes play in climate change, and developing green technologies.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Microbiology courses in the following subject areas:

  • Mastering Microbiology – Gain an in-depth awareness of immunology, the biology of bacteria, various infections and much more.
  • Microbiology of Environmental Contaminants – The study of detection, characterization and identification of contaminating microorganisms and their products so as to enhance Quality Risk Management.
  • Microbiology for the Pharmaceutical & Medical Devices Industries – A study of microbiology and microorganisms for the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries.
  • Industrial Microbiology & Biopharmaceuticals – An introduction to the principles of pharmaceutical microbiology, aseptic processing and biopharmaceutical production as applied in an industrial context and also to provide the microbiology and cell biology knowledge base for students to successfully enter the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries.
  • Developing Food Science Skills: Food Microbiology and Hygiene – Explore basic aspects of food microbiology and learn about food hygiene in terms of premises, equipment, cleaning and disinfection.

Studying Microbiology in college

There are many Microbiology courses that take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or volunteering to work in a laboratory which will be useful if you’re thinking of a science-based career. Some degree courses include a year’s work placement undertaking scientific research in industry, a government research laboratory or another relevant organisation. Some companies provide funding to support research work in laboratories over the summer. Contact local hospital laboratories to find out about work experience or work shadowing opportunities.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Microbiology you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of microorganisms and microbiology.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a facility with set business hours or if you are contracted to various facilities or companies. The hours are usually full time, Monday to Friday, although there may be some positions where you may be on-call after hours. The work is generally laboratory-based in pathology departments or diagnostic laboratories in hospitals, although there are opportunities in other types of work environments. You’ll usually need to wear protective clothing such as gloves, coat and safety glasses.

You may need to travel during the day for meetings or on-site visits. You may also travel throughout the country and abroad to attend conferences and take part in collaborative research.

Microbiology overlaps with other areas of biology such as genetics, molecular biology and immunology. This means there are opportunities for a microbiology-related career in a wide range of sectors. Typical employers include healthcare organisations, environmental organisations, industry – food and drink, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, water and biotechnology companies, forensic science laboratories, publicly funded research organisations and higher education institutions.

Related jobs include:

  • Academic researcher
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Biotechnologist
  • Clinical research associate
  • Clinical scientist
  • Food technologist
  • Medicinal chemist
  • Microbiologist
  • Nanotechnologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Technical brewer
  • Water quality scientist
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental engineer
  • Forensic scientist
  • Marine biologist
  • Physician associate
  • Science writer

Further study

After completing a course in Microbiology you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as medicine, healthcare, research, agriculture and food safety and environment and climate change.


Why is Microbiology important?

By analysing microorganisms up close, microbiologists play a crucial role in combating disease, creating chemical products for agriculture, and even helping to keep the planet healthy.

Are there different types of microbiology?

Microbiology is a vast subject that overlaps with other areas of life sciences, such as molecular biology, immunology and biochemistry.

Microbiology can be further broken down based on taxonomy into bacteriology, mycology, protozoology and phycology.

Where can I study Microbiology?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

  • Bacteria have been on the planet for more than 3.5 billion years old, making them the oldest known life-form on earth.
  • Gonorrhoea bacteria are the strongest creature on the earth as it can pull 100,000 times of their own weight.
  • Penicillin was a major breakthrough when Alexander Fleming discovered it in 1928. Antibiotics have enjoyed widespread popularity ever since, but antibiotics overuse has given rise to deadly strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Traditional methods of locating and identifying microscopic organisms have often included culture, staining with various reactant stains, and microscopy, including electron microscopy.
  • Scientists made several findings this year that could potentially show up in court one day. One study found that the microbiome of human cadavers evolves in a predictable way, hinting at a new way to determine the time of death.

Mariza Halliday

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