Microbiology is a thriving field that should provide good prospects for qualified workers. Most of the applied research projects that microbiologists are involved in require the expertise of scientists in multiple fields such as biophysics, chemistry, and medicine. Microbiologists with some familiarity of other disciplines should have the best opportunities.
What does a Microbiologist do?
Microbiologists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they gain experience. They also gain greater responsibility through certification and higher education. Ph.D. microbiologists usually lead research teams and control the direction and content of projects.
Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They try to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments.
Microbiologists work in laboratories and offices, where they conduct scientific experiments and analyze the results. Most microbiologists work full time and keep regular hours.
The median annual wage for microbiologists was $66,850 in May 2016.
A microbiologist’s work in a nutshell:
● They typically work in laboratories and offices, where they conduct experiments and analyze the results.
● Some microbiologists may conduct onsite visits or collect samples from lakes, streams, and oceans, and, as a result, may travel occasionally and spend some time outside. Most microbiologists work full time and keep regular hours.
● Basic researchers who work in academia usually choose the focus of their research and run their own laboratories. Basic researchers often need to fund their research by winning grants. These grants often put pressure on researchers to meet deadlines and other specifications. Research grants are generally awarded through a competitive selection process.
● 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.
● Most microbiologists work full time and keep regular hours.
● A bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a closely related field is needed for entry-level microbiologist jobs. A Ph.D. is typically needed to carry out independent research and to work in colleges and universities.
● 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 core courses in microbial genetics and microbial physiology and elective classes 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.
● 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 and immunology. Ph.D. programs usually include class work, laboratory research, and completing a thesis or dissertation
Importance of Microbiology training:
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.
Careers Related to Microbiologists:
● Agricultural and Food Scientists
Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.
● Biochemists and Biophysicists
Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.
● Biological Technicians
Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.
● Chemical Technicians
Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to help chemists and chemical engineers research, develop, produce, and test chemical products and processes.
Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education, and health policy.
● Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
● Medical Scientists
Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.
● Natural Sciences Managers
Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists. They direct activities related to research and development, and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production.
● Physicians and Surgeons
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.
● Postsecondary Teachers
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
● Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems. They study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.
The development of new medicines and treatments is expected to increase the demand for microbiologists in pharmaceutical and biotechnology research. Microbiologists will be needed to research and develop new medicines and treatments, such as vaccines and antibiotics that are used to fight infectious diseases. In addition, microbiologists will be needed to help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies develop biological drugs that are produced with the aid of microorganisms.
Aside from improving health, other areas of research and development in biotechnology are expected to provide employment growth for microbiologists. Many companies, from food producers to chemical companies, will need microbiologists to ensure product quality and production efficiency. Increasing demand for clean energy should drive the need for microbiologists who research and develop alternative energy sources such as biofuels and biomass. In agriculture, more microbiologists will be needed to help develop genetically engineered crops that provide greater yields and require less pesticide and fertilizer. Finally, efforts to discover new and improved ways to preserve the environment and safeguard the public’s health also will increase demand for microbiologists.