Where you go in your career depends largely on what you want, on your skill in identifying opportunities and experiences, and on your talent and hard work. Graduate programs offer opportunities and experiences, and try to recruit great students and give them a firm footing for their careers. A student's time with UW Microbiology Doctoral Training Program (MDTP) has 3 components: research, courses, and teaching.
Research training is far-and-away the main focus for students. You should look for a graduate program and eventually a thesis lab that can provide you with interesting scientific questions, approaches for answering those questions, people to teach you how to use those approaches, and resources for doing the work. UW MDTP encompasses over 80 faculty trainer labs covering a considerable range of scientific questions and approaches. Entering students identify rotation labs for short projects before joining a thesis lab where they will learn and develop their scientific stories before moving on in their scientific careers. Each student prepares a thesis proposal that serves as the basis of her/his preliminary exam usually in the 3rd year, does the research, writes papers that comprise most of the dissertation, and usually pursues postdoctoral training after graduation which typically occurs 5-6 years after entry into the program.
A wide range of excellent courses is available, with breadth and depth both being worthy goals. Increase your knowledge in your scientific focus area to facilitate your research, or learn about other areas that may interest you and provide future research possibilities. MDTP has major and minor requirements, 10 credit hours each. Most students complete their coursework in their first 2 years: 1-3 courses per semester for 3-4 semesters.
Teaching and learning are intertwined. You learn as you teach, both about the course subject material and about the teaching process. Nearly all careers that students may pursue involve teaching, as a formal component in academia but also in industry, government service, private foundations, etc. You will likely have several one-on-one mentoring experiences in graduate school, being mentored by your faculty advisor and also mentoring more junior graduate students and undergraduates as you progress and gain independence. In addition, MDTP has a 1-semester teaching practicum requirement, usually performed in the 2nd year. The teaching practicum is designed to provide you with valuable teaching experience under the direction of a faculty member while also contributing to the teaching missions of the core departments. There are a wide range of Bacteriology and Medical Microbiology & Immunology courses available spanning different formats: large lecture, small discussion, and lab; undergraduate and graduate. As with the courses you take, you may want to teach in your research focus area, or learn a new area while making a teaching contribution.