Graduate Degrees

Ph.D. Program in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Since the Ph.D. degree is primarily a research degree, our doctoral program is designed to foster and nurture creative and independent research. Ph.D. students generally perform rotating research projects (about 10 weeks each) in three laboratories during their first academic year. The choice of a major professor is made by mutual agreement at the end of spring semester of the first year. Required courses in the Ph.D. program are chosen by the student and his or her thesis committee to meet individual needs.  Generally four lecture courses (usually three credits each) are required along with three seminar courses (usually one or two credits each), a teaching methods class (one credit), and a research ethics workshop or class.  Details of the Ph.D. program including course requirements and descriptions can be found in the department's Graduate Manual and by accessing and choosing the Graduate Studies link. Questions can be emailed to

The comprehensive examination for candidacy to the Ph.D. consists of the written preparation and oral defense of a research proposal on the student’s doctoral research. The comprehensive examinations are generally completed by the end of the second year. In addition, 24 credits of research and one year of residence are required for the Ph.D. degree. Typically, the full Ph.D. program requires about five years to complete (assuming entry with a B.S. and no previous graduate experience).

Joint Ph.D. Professional Degree Programs

The Microbiology & Molecular Genetics Department does offer the option of dual Ph.D.-professional degree programs for qualified students. This option is available with each of the three medical colleges - veterinary (D.V.M.-Ph.D.), human (M.D.-Ph.D.), and osteopathic medicine (D.O.-Ph.D.). Both the professional and graduate programs are designed to meet the individual student’s needs. Such a program normally takes at least seven years to complete, and students may need to provide their own financial support for the professional school portion of the program.

Dual Major Ph.D. Graduate Programs involving Microbiology

Ph.D. students enrolled in the MMG graduate program may obtain a dual major in MMG/environmental toxicology or MMG/quantitative biology. For students interested in toxicology graduate education and research related to the harmful health effects of environmental or other chemicals, joint enrollment is possible in the Environmental and Integrative Toxicological Sciences program administered through MSU’s Center for Integrative Toxicology ( Alternatively, students interested in bridging the biological and mathematical, statistical, physical, or chemical disciplines may apply for joint enrollment in the Quantitative Biology program administered by the Quantitative Biology Initiative ( Details about how to apply and who to contact for these programs are found at their web sites: ( ( In addition, students may earn a Ph.D. Specialization in Environmental Science and Policy (

Master of Science in Microbiology

The Plan A thesis-based M.S. is available in special cases, but students are rarely accepted directly into this program. Thirty credits, including ten research credits, are required, along with completion and defense of a research thesis. Generally, the program requires two to three years, or more, to complete.

Five-year combined B.S./M.S. Program in Microbiology

This program is available to MSU undergraduates in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics or other departments who wish to extend their studies by (at least) one year and earn both the B.S. and M.S. degrees. Although it is a non-thesis (plan B) program, a multi-year research experience is required, along with a written and oral report on that research. A total of 150 credits are required for both degrees. Students are encouraged to begin the B.S./M.S. program as early as possible during their undergraduate careers and no later than the end of their junior year.