Microbiology is a part of the broader study of biology, focusing on how small living things, such as those made of single cells, small cell clusters, or no cells at all, live and function. Microbiology is split into several other courses of study, such as mycology (the study of fungi), virology (the study of viruses), bacteriology (the study of bacteria), immunology (the study of the immune system), and parasitology (the study of parasites), among other fields. All areas within microbiology, however, focus on the smallest elements of biological systems and how they interact with other biological and chemical agents.
Some microbiology specializations focus on specific elements that occur in multiple microbiological systems or on the applications of microbiology knowledge. These fields include microbial ecology (the relations between small organisms and their environment), microbial genetics (the organization of genes in small organisms), medical microbiology (the relationship between small organisms and human health), and food microbiology (the study of organisms that cause food to spoil).
Microbiology programs are not accredited by a centralized accrediting body in the United States. As a result, you could take different courses during a microbiology program at one university from those you would take at another. However, all college microbiology programs should familiarize you with a similar body of content through courses taught by professors with a Ph.D. in microbiology or a related field. Although an online microbiology course can inform you about the basic theories and practices of microbiology, it generally cannot help you learn the laboratory techniques necessary for success in the field. Online microbiology courses also cannot familiarize you with laboratory equipment such as light microscopes, which are commonly used for microbiology work.
Online courses in microbiology are useful for teaching topics such as introductory microbiology, bacteriology, virology, microbial ecology, and systems microbiology. In an online microbiology class, you can expect to learn how to answer a variety of microbiology questions, including:
If you do decide to take online courses in microbiology, you should make sure to do your research on the school you are considering. Does the school have regional accreditation from an accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)? Is the course you intend to take taught by a professor with a Ph.D. in microbiology or a related field from an accredited institution? Does the school have a strong reputation for microbiology?
Below, we have created a directory of open courseware related to the field of microbiology for you to peruse. Open courseware consists of free video lectures, tests, lesson notes, and other course materials from prominent colleges in several countries. This courseware does not give you the opportunity to work with experienced faculty and professionals in the microbiology field and is no substitute for a college education. However, this coursework can be a good starting point if you are considering studying microbiology.