“[Online education] did give me the opportunity to reach out to a major university that I would not have had the opportunity at this stage in my life to go to, to get these kinds of really in-depth courses. This was a good choice for me.” – Rebekkah Schmidt, online microbiology master’s degree program graduate
Rebekkah Schmidt had always intended to go back to teaching high school science. While taking a break from that career to devote time to family, she decided to pursue a new professional credential. In December 2022, she completed UF’s online master’s degree in microbiology and cell science program. Now working in a new role, Schmidt spoke to us from her home in Ohio about the unique advantage that made UF’s program a sure thing and what our master’s degree has already done for her professional life.
Finding UF’s One-of-a-Kind Microbiology Program
“I taught environmental science, anatomy, biology and AP bio in a high school,” Schmidt explained. “Then I took a few years off to stay at home with our three kids, who were very close in age and still pretty young. To keep your teaching license, you have to do professional development or earn credits, and mine was about to expire, so I was frantically looking for something to do while I was home with the kids.
“I was looking at a la carte classes that I could take to make enough credits to renew my license because that would have been quicker, a little cheaper obviously, but then I ran into this [UF program] and I think I completed it in about three years, which isn’t bad, being home with three kids through the pandemic and all that. And I just thought, if I have to do the classes and I want the education, [I] might as well take it as far as [I] can. I ran into other programs, and I think they offered a few courses, but not this kind of a program. This was the only online micro/infectious disease program that I could find.
“Microbiology and virology and infectious disease were just kind of a hobby,” she continued. “It’s really interesting to me on the science front. So, when I saw [UF’s] program was very geared toward that and the end result was a master’s degree — I have a master’s in education from Ohio State, but this would be more a science-based master’s degree — I thought that would not only improve my knowledge base [so] that I could go back and give new information to the [high school] kids, but that maybe [it could] catapult me somewhere else in the future too.”
New Credentials Accelerate Career Growth
Schmidt did return to teaching, but now she’s enjoying a more advanced position with a new employer. She explained how earning a microbiology degree from UF catapulted her career — possibly faster than she expected, having graduated just three months earlier: “The master’s degree and content I learned helped me acquire a professor position at a local community college. [My new job’s] really fun, too.”
Our Online Format Provided a Way
Schmidt had initially considered campus-based programs, but the challenges were evident. “I think if [a microbiology program] had been around here, it would have been in the evenings, which would’ve been problematic. But the online, I could at least work on my own schedule, get up at 4:00 a.m. if I needed to do my stuff and then do [other] stuff the rest of the day. And that really worked well. If you’ve got the time to do it, face-to-face [learning] is good. But at this point in my life with the kids, it was not feasible.
“I do feel like I got as much out of the program as I would had I been on campus,” she said. “A lot of the professors went at it with the understanding that you understood the bench science, or if not, you could ask questions and then they would explain how the bench science related to all the stuff that we talked about. They incorporated it well. I even learned some new techniques and things I didn’t know were out there, like CRISPR — all sorts of things that the community college I’m at now actually has some ways to [incorporate].”
A Proud Part of the Gator Nation
Though she completed studies for her UF microbiology master’s degree in Ohio, she felt it was important to visit Gainesville for one aspect of the program. “We actually went on campus for graduation, which was so cool to be there. To feel like you’re part of the Gator Nation for a minute and see everything. It was very cool. Look what I’m wearing today,” she said, proudly calling attention to her University of Florida t-shirt. “Yay, Florida! All in. I’m still a Buckeye but also a Gator,” she added with a laugh.
Recommended Without Reservation
Would Schmidt recommend UF’s online microbiology program to others? “Yes, definitely. And I have. Where I’m working now, they have a microbiology program and classes, but they have no one on staff that’s microbiology-trained. So, they were excited that I could come. One of the professors had questions for me about your program, and I definitely laid it out. It’s rigorous, but it is doable. It’s fun and you learn so much. He has kids too, so it would be good for him.” Schmidt’s parting advice to any prospective student: “Put time into studying and ask questions.”
Rebekkah Schmidt earned her online Master of Science in Microbiology & Cell Science from UF and got more than she expected out of the program. What’s keeping you from doing the same? Get details on our program and application process now.