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Microbiologist Career Guide

Are you someone who is patient, decisive and independent? Do you have excellent IT, numerical and analytical skills and enjoy working in a team? Then look no further, as a career as a microbiologist might just be the one for you!

Microbiologists are scientists who undertake laboratory analysis and monitoring of microbial cultures, samples and new drugs. They use a wide range of analytical and scientific techniques to monitor and study microbes. To become a microbiologist, you will need a degree in microbiology or a related field. Many microbiologists go onto achieve a Ph.D, as this gives them the best employment opportunities.

Microbiologist Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Microbiologist Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Microbiologist field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
32418 Associate Director of Scientific Research Female 36 $82,000 amherst, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What a Microbiologist does

Microbiologists are scientists who undertake laboratory analysis and monitoring of microbial cultures, samples and new drugs. They use a wide range of analytical and scientific techniques to monitor and study microbes.

Microbiologists can work in a range of areas, such as healthcare and agriculture and they are typically employed by The Food Standards Agency, water and waste management companies, public and private sector organizations, government agencies and hospitals. Like all careers, the typical responsibilities of a microbiologist will vary depending on who they work for and what area they work in. However, all microbiologists can expect to have duties and tasks such as:

  • Planning and conducting complexed research projects
  • Performing laboratory experiments that are used in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses
  • Supervising the work of technicians and evaluating the accuracy of their results
  • Isolating and maintaining cultures of bacteria or other microorganisms for study
  • Identifying and classifying microorganisms found in specimens collected from humans, plants, animals, or the environment
  • Monitoring the effect of microorganisms on plants, animals or the environment
  • Preparing technical reports and publishing research papers
  • Presenting research findings

Why they are needed

Microbiologists aim to answer many important global questions through the understanding of microbes. make a huge difference to our lives. They ensure that food we consume is safe to eat. They work to prevent diseases. And, they develop green technologies and track climate change. They are needed in specific industries, for example:

  • In the healthcare industry, microbiologists are needed to help treat disease. In this industry, microbiologists will test samples of body tissue, blood and fluids to diagnose infections, monitor treatments or track outbreaks. They can also work to develop vaccines.
  • In the environmental industry microbiologist are needed to help fight against climate change. They do this by studying how microbes can be used to clean up contaminated land and oil spills. Or by studying how microbes affects atmospheric conditions and climate. They can also work  to develop greener sources of energy.
  • In the agriculture and food industry microbiologists are needed to investigate the vital role of microbes in soil. They also investigate how microbes can cause diseases in crops and farm animals. Or, they may carry out research to develop new food products.

The pros and cons of a career as a physician

Pros:

  • Microbiology is a prestigious career and microbiologists get a lot of recognition
  • There are advancement opportunities
  • There is high job satisfaction as the work a microbiologists conducts makes a huge difference to the world
  • Microbiologists can specialize in a particular area that interests them the most
  • There is the opportunity to earn a high salary

Cons:

  • There are educational commitments required. This means that it is not an accessible career to everyone
  • It is a highly competitive job market
  • Microbiology is a hard career to enter as extensive knowledge, skills and experience is required
  • Microbiologists may be exposed to hazardous materials and substances (e.g., dangerous strains of bacteria)
  • Microbiologist can also work long hours, especially if they work in hospitals

Employability

Job Market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of microbiologists is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This employment growth is expected for many reasons, for example:

  • More microbiologists are needed to contribute to basic research and solve problems of industrial production
  • Microbiologists will be needed to research and develop medicines, treatments, vaccines and antibiotics
  • Microbiologists will be needed to help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies develop drugs
  • Many companies will need microbiologists to ensure product quality and production efficiency
  • Microbiologists will be needed to find cleaner sources of energy
  • Microbiologists will be needed to help develop genetically engineered crops that provide greater yields or require less pesticide and fertilizer

Microbiology is a thriving field. Therefore, qualified workers should have good prospects. Most of the applied research projects that microbiologists are involved in require the expertise of scientists in multiple fields, such as geology, chemistry and medicine. Therefore, microbiologists with some familiarity of these disciplines should have the best opportunities.

Career paths

To become a microbiologist you will need a bachelors degree in microbiology (or a closely related field) as a minimum. Most microbiology majors take core courses in microbial genetics, microbial physiology and environmental microbiology and virology. Microbiologists also need to have a good understanding of other science fields, so aspiring microbiologists should take classes in other sciences such as biochemistry, chemistry and physics.

It is important for prospective microbiologists to have laboratory experience before entering the workforce. Most undergraduate microbiology programs include a mandatory laboratory requirement, but additional laboratory coursework is recommended. Students also can gain valuable laboratory experience through internships with prospective employers, such as drug manufacturers.

Microbiologists typically need a Ph.D. to carry out independent research and work in colleges and universities. Graduate students studying microbiology commonly specialize in a subfield such as bacteriology or immunology. Ph.D. programs usually include class work, laboratory research, and completing a thesis or dissertation.

After completing their Ph.D, many microbiologists will begin their career in temporary postdoctoral research positions. During their postdoctoral appointment, they work with experienced scientists as they continue to learn about their specialties and develop a broader understanding of related areas of research.

Example Job Titles for Microbiologist

Below is a list of common job titles in the Microbiologist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for microbiologists in the United states was $75,650 in 2019. The lowest 10% earned less than $43,500 per year, and the highest 10% earned more than $133,280 per year.

The top paying industry was the federal government, which has a median annual salary of $106,670. This was followed by research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences ($101,100), pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing ($67,990), the state government ($57,770) and then colleges, universities and professional schools ($56,850).

Autonomy and flexibility

Like most careers, microbiologists will have less autonomy when they first start out. As most microbiologists begin their career in postdoctoral research positions where they work under experienced scientists, they are likely to have little control over their decisions at this stage.

However, as they progress through their career and gather more experience and knowledge, microbiologists will have greater control over their decisions. For example, basic microbiology researchers who work in academia usually choose the focus of their research and run their own laboratories. Therefore, these researchers have high levels of autonomy and flexibility. Yet, applied researchers who work for companies study the products that the company will sell or suggest modifications to the production process so that the company can become more efficient.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be a microbiologist, based on average annual salary and number of job opportunities available, are:

  1. California, where the average annual salary is $79,930
  2. Vermont, where the average annual salary is $64,993
  3. Massachusetts, where the average annual salary is $68,370
  4. Arizona, where the average annual salary is $68,390
  5. New Jersey, where the average annual salary is $59,790

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Kansas.

Work environment

23% of microbiologists in the United States were employed by research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences industry. 13% were employed by colleges, universities and professional schools. The federal government employed 12% of microbiologist, the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry employed 11% and the state government employ 7%.

Microbiologists typically work in laboratories, offices and industrial settings where they can conduct experiments and analyze the reports in the same place. Some microbiologists will work with dangerous organisms and will have to follow strict safety procedures to avoid contamination. Microbiologists may also need to conduct onsite visits or collect samples from the environment and as a result, they may have to travel to different locations or work outside.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Microbiologist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Microbiologist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Microbiologist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

There is no scientific exploration as to exactly what personality types will make a successful microbiologist. However, microbiologists are likely to have inquisitive personalities. They will be curious and will want to take the time to research and understand things. They will also be realistic and practical because they will need to be hands on.

Accomplishment and mastery

Microbiologists often achieve a Ph.D. Therefore, when they qualify and land their first job, they will feel a huge sense of accomplishment and mastery. What is more, is that throughout their career, microbiologists will continue to feel accomplished when they help solve some of the biggest problems in the world. For instance, if they help develop vaccines, limit climate change or help crop growth!

Meaning and contribution

Microbiologists are needed to help the modern world progress. Without them, there would be disease, a poor climate and poor crop yield. Their work has high meaning and contribution to everyone. Think about the current COVID-19 pandemic, for example. Microbiologists will be working around the clock to help create effective vaccines that will save the lives of many!

Life fit

Most microbiologists will work normal full time hours. This offers them an excellent life fit.

Who will thrive?

There are many qualities that a microbiologist needs to thrive. For example:

  • The commitment to the educational process (e.g., bachelor’d degree, Ph.D)
  • A genuine passion for science
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • The ability to concentrate on one topic for a long period of time
  • The ability to work as part of a team and work independently

Who will struggle?

Firstly, those who are not willing to commit to the educational process to become a successful microbiologist will struggle in this career. Those who are not adaptable to both independent and team working may struggle in this career. Finally, those with short attention spans or the desire to seek excitement may find a career as a microbiologist tedious, unfulfilling and boring.

Requirements

Skills and talents

Microbiologists will need many skills, such as:

  • Time-management skills, as microbiologists will need to meet research deadlines. They will also need to be able to prioritize tasks efficiently
  • Problem-solving skills, are microbiologists will need to use scientific experiments and analysis to find solutions to complex problems
  • Mathematical skills, as microbiologists will need to use mathematical equations and formulas in their work
  • Logical-thinking skills, as microbiologists will need to use sound reasoning and judgement to form conclusions from experiments
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, as microbiologists will work as part of a research team. They need to be able to build relations with others and to be able to communicate effectively with them
  • Attention to detail, as microbiologists must conduct scientific experiments and analyse even the smallest of details with accuracy and precision

Education

To become a microbiologist, you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, or a closely related field. If you want to conduct independent research or work for universities, you will be required to obtain a Ph.D in Microbiology.

Certificates

Internships and certifications are not required to become a microbiologist, however, getting an internship and then becoming certified by The American College of Microbiology will make you stand out from other microbiologists and enhance your career opportunities.

How to Become

Microbiologists are scientists who undertake laboratory analysis and monitoring of microbial cultures, samples and new drugs. They use a wide range of analytical and scientific techniques to monitor and study microbes.

Microbiologists can work in a range of areas, such as healthcare and agriculture and they are typically employed by The Food Standards Agency, water and waste management companies, public and private sector organizations, government agencies and hospitals.

Immediate action

To have the best chance of getting accepted onto a microbiology degree program, aspiring microbiologists should aim to participate in as many extra curricular activities as possible (e.g., sports, teaching, quizzes, drama etc).

Education and learning

To become a microbiologist, you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, or a closely related field. If you want to conduct independent research or work for universities, you will be required to obtain a Ph.D in Microbiology.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Microbiologist careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
32418 Associate Director of Scientific Research Female 36 $82,000 amherst, NY 01/01/2010

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