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Microbiology Careers

Career Description

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

Common Work Tasks

  • Investigate the growth and characteristics of microscopic organisms such as bacteria, algae, or fungi
  • Use biotechnology to advance knowledge of cell reproduction and human disease
  • Examine physiological, morphological, and cultural characteristics, using microscope, to identify and classify microorganisms in human, water, and food specimens
  • Provide laboratory services for health departments, for community environmental health programs and for physicians needing information for diagnosis and treatment
  • Observe action of microorganisms upon living tissues of plants, higher animals, and other microorganisms, and on dead organic matter
  • Investigate the relationship between organisms and disease including the control of epidemics and the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms
  • Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists
  • Study growth, structure, development, and general characteristics of bacteria and other microorganisms to understand their relationship to human, plant, and animal health

Other Job Titles

Microbiologists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Biological Scientists
  • Biologists
  • Biochemists and Biophysicists
  • Zoologists

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A Ph.D.  degree usually is necessary for independent research, industrial research, and college teaching, as well as for advancement to administrative positions. A master’s degree is sufficient for some jobs in applied research, product development, management, or inspection; it also may qualify one to work as a research technician or a teacher. The bachelor’s degree is adequate for some non-research jobs.

Microbiologists should be able to work independently or as part of a team and be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Those in private industry, especially those who aspire to management or administrative positions, should possess strong business and communication skills and be familiar with regulatory issues and marketing and management techniques. Those doing field research in remote areas must have physical stamina. Microbiologists also must have patience and self-discipline to conduct long and detailed research projects.


The median annual salary for a Microbiologist is $60,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $104,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $37,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of microbiologists are:

  • Scientific Research and Development Services - $67,020
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing - $67,120
  • Federal Executive Branch - $92,030
  • State Government  - $49,650
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $46,910

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  11%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 1,900
  • Employment 2006 : 17,000
  • Employment 2016:  19,000
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