career discovery for students

career:

Microbiologists
Investigate the growth, structure, development, and other characteristics of microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, algae, or fungi. Includes medical microbiologists who study the relationship between organisms and disease or the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms.

career highlights

Microbiologists typically do the following:
  • Investigate the relationship between organisms and disease including the control of epidemics and the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms.
  • Prepare technical reports and recommendations based upon research outcomes.
  • Monitor and perform tests on water, food, and the environment to detect harmful microorganisms or to obtain information about sources of pollution, contamination, or infection.
  • Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists.
  • Provide laboratory services for health departments, for community environmental health programs and for physicians needing information for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Examine physiological, morphological, and cultural characteristics, using microscope, to identify and classify microorganisms in human, water, and food specimens.
how do I become a Microbiologist? READ MORE...
X

A bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a closely related field is needed for entry-level microbiologist jobs. A Ph.D. is needed to carry out independent research and to work in colleges and universities.  

Education

Microbiologists need at least a bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a closely related field such as biochemistry or cell biology. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in biological sciences, including microbiology.  

Most microbiology majors take introductory courses in microbial genetics and microbial physiology before taking classes in more advanced topics such as environmental microbiology and virology. Students also must take classes in other sciences, such as biochemistry, chemistry, and physics, because it is important for microbiologists to have a broad understanding of the sciences. Courses in statistics, mathematics, and computer science are important for microbiologists because they must be able to do complex data analysis.

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 virology. Ph.D. programs usually include class work, laboratory research, and completing a thesis or dissertation. It typically takes 4 to 6 years to complete a doctoral degree program in microbiology.

Training

Many microbiology Ph.D. holders begin their careers in a temporary postdoctoral research position, which typically lasts 2 to 3 years. During their postdoctoral appointment, they work with experienced scientists as they continue to learn about their specialties or develop a broader understanding of related areas of research.

Postdoctoral positions typically offer the opportunity to publish research findings. A solid record of published research is essential to get a permanent position in basic research, especially a permanent faculty position in a college or university.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Microbiologists must be able to conduct scientific experiments and analyses with accuracy and precision.

Critical-thinking skills. Microbiologists draw conclusions from experimental results through sound reasoning and judgment.

Interpersonal skills. Microbiologists typically work on research teams and thus must work well with others toward a common goal. Many also lead research teams and must be able to motivate and direct other team members.

Mathematical skills. Microbiologists regularly use complex mathematical equations and formulas in their work. Therefore, they need a broad understanding of mathematics, including calculus and statistics.

Observation skills. Microbiologists must constantly monitor their experiments. They need to keep a complete, accurate record of their work such as conditions, procedures, and results.

Perseverance. Microbiological research involves substantial trial and error, and microbiologists must not become discouraged in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Microbiologists use scientific experiments and analysis to find solutions to complex scientific problems.

Speaking skills. Microbiologists frequently give presentations and must be able to explain their research to others.

Writing skills. Microbiologists write memos, reports, and research papers that explain their findings.

Advancement

Microbiologists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they gain experience. They also gain greater responsibility through more education. Ph.D. microbiologists usually lead research teams and control the direction and content of projects.

Some microbiologists move into managerial positions, often as natural sciences managers. Those who pursue management careers spend much of their time on administrative tasks such as preparing budgets and schedules. For more information, see the profile on natural sciences managers.

money & career outlook

national salaries - all Life Scientist careers
10 year career outlook - projected growth in job openings
13%
Microbiologists
all Life Scientist careers
total of all brainflash careers
shrinking
demand
(no bueno)
no real
growth
(meh)
growing
demand
(muy bueno)

education & skills

education level required for this career
<1%
less than high school
<1%
high school
<1%
some college
<1%
certification
5%
associate's degree
45%
bachelor's degree
5%
master's degree
45%
doctoral degree
Education pie chart
top 5 skills for this career:
Science
Critical Thinking
Writing
Reading Comprehension
Active Listening

other careers like this one

related careers based on category or skills
careers related to these skills:
careers related to this category:

the brainflash press room

brainflash articles about related careers
Age is never a restriction for success, and these five teenagers proved that with flying colors. Taking advantage of science fairs, learning new skills and other opportunities, these freshly graduated high school students are out to make the most of life in a big way. Let’s see… achieve nuclear fusion before graduation? Check. Conrad Farnsworth ...
READ MORE
Welcome to another segment filled with ideas to help you not waste your summer. We’re coming up with all sorts of ideas to help you not only get out of the house but to gain new skills and interests that will provide you with better career options in your future. Volunteer work has a nice ...
READ MORE
featured on our articles page
There is not a quick answer from parents and students when asked, “What is high school for anyway”? Answers like career preparation, college prep, athletics, socializing, general education…for some, the answer is, “because we have to go.” On an unfortunately too frequent schedule, another report comes back and slaps us in the face screaming that ...
READ MORE
Ever wanted to know where the smartest kids in the world are? Once you knew that, did you want to find out how the managed to become so smart? Amanda Ripley seeks to answer those questions in a new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. The book follows ...
READ MORE

newsletter

get the best of brainflash