Science, Technology & Environment
Microbiologists study microorganisms in order to understand how these organisms live and grow in their environments, and effect our lives.
What does a Microbiologist do?
Microbiologists study microorganisms in order to understand how these organisms live and grow in their environments, and effect our lives. Microbiologists focus on the biology of microorganisms at both the molecular and cellular level, as well as their ecology, including viruses, bacteria, archaea, fungi, algae and protozoa.
As a microbiologist you might:
- work in healthcare and be involved in preventing, diagnosing and controlling the spread of infections
- work in research and development for in industries such as pharmaceuticals, food, or agriculture
- work in education or the environmental sector
- be involved with emerging biotechnology industries.
Depending on your job, you might:
- track microorganisms in a range of environments
- monitor, assess and test samples
- undertake regular sampling schedules within a specific environment
- develop new methods to prevent the spread of disease
- develop and register new medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tests or pharmaceutical products
- evaluate new products in clinical trials
- grow microbial cultures for use in, for example, the food and drink industry or in agriculture
- check for signs of contamination during manufacturing
- manage and oversee laboratory work
- write up research findings and produce reports.
Key skills and interests
To become a microbiologist, you would need:
- an interest in science
- an aptitude for research
- an enquiring mind
- good problem solving skills
- a high level of accuracy and detail in your work
- good teamwork skills.
Working hours and conditions
You would normally work a standard number of hours, Monday to Friday. Some laboratory experiments need to be monitored constantly, so in a laboratory setting, you may need to work at evenings and on weekends.
If you work in a laboratory, you would usually wear protective clothing. In an education or environmental setting, you might work in an office, classroom, or in the field.
There may be some travel involved to attend scientific meetings and conferences.
How to become an Microbiologist?
Entry Level Education
Most microbiologists have a degree in a relevant subject such as microbiology, biology, medical science or another biological science with a strong focus on microbiology. To get into degree courses you usually need to obtain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent.
Some employers may also prefer you to have a relevant postgraduate qualification and some experience working in a laboratory. You can gain valuable laboratory experience through internships with prospective employers such as drug manufacturers.
Microbiologists typically need a PhD to carry out independent research or to work in universities.
Employment of Microbiologists is projected to grow slower than the average for all occupations.
More microbiologists will be needed to contribute to basic research, solve problems encountered in industrial production processes, and monitor environmental conditions to ensure the public’s health and safety.