What do Microbiologists Do?
If you are passionate about the biological sciences, and are excited by the prospect of laboratory work, you may want to consider becoming a microbiologist. Microbiologists study, analyze, and investigate the behavior of microscopic living organisms such as bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Workers in this field are employed by a wide range of industries and perform a multitude of functions. Universities, hospitals, government entities, and private research companies all employ microbiologists. Microbiology is an essential component of the medical field, and researchers often explore the impact that these unseen organisms have on the human body.
Microbiologists Skills and Abilities
First and foremost, microbiologists should have an in-depth understanding of basic and advanced-level scientific principles. An extensive background in biology, chemistry, and sometimes even physics is required to excel in this career. This is a heavily scientific field, and workers will be expected to analyze and comment on their findings, so research skills are needed. Excellent organizational skills will come in handy, since scientists will be recording large amounts of data. Most microbiologists work in professional environments, so the ability to speak clearly and articulately is helpful.
Microbiologists research microscopic organisms and record their findings for various purposes. This field is vital to the public health industry, and workers explore the effects that these organisms have on diseases and epidemics. Microbiologists commonly collect samples of these organisms, and examine their behavior in food, water, and the human body. Scientists may also be charged with presenting their findings to colleagues, businesses, and even public officials. Workers in this field may also be asked to:
- Analyze biological substances and chemical compounds
- Supervise subordinates and other technical staff
- Classify organisms based on characteristics and behavior
- Explore the environmental impact microscopic organisms have on plants and wildlife
- Help develop new products and medicines, such as antibiotics
- Teach courses at the secondary and postsecondary education levels
Microbiologists Tools and Technology
Since you will be working in the scientific field, a wide range of scientific equipment and devices will be utilized. Centrifuges, spectrometers, and analyzers are commonly employed in the search for information, and microbiologists should feel comfortable using this equipment. Since many of these organisms can be harmful, sterilizers and steam autoclaves are used to clean research material. Scientific computer programs may also be used to analyze, organize, and model data and findings.
Education and Training for Microbiologists
Entering into this particular field does require a college-level education, and many microbiologists possess graduate and postgraduate degrees. Roughly 46.5% of workers in this field have a bachelor’s degree, while 27.6% have a master’s. 22% of microbiologists held postgraduate degrees. The overwhelming majority of microbiologists held degrees in either biology or biochemistry. If you are seeking a job that does not require high levels of education, this may not be the field for you.
The median salary for a microbiologist is $67,800 a year, with the top 10% earning over $125,000, and the lowest 10% earning around $38,800 a year. Over the last year, there was a 2.7% wage increase for microbiologists, indicating an increasing demand for workers in this field. Microbiologists employed by the federal government reported the highest earnings. Those employed by the soap and cleaning compound industry earned the lowest salaries.
Microbiologists Jobs by Geography
California, Massachusetts, and New York employed the highest level of workers in this industry. The top paying states for microbiologists are Washington, D.C., Maryland, and California. This is a remarkably fast growing field, and there was a 5.1% increase in employment levels for microbiologists over the previous year. There are currently 20,670 Americans employed as microbiologists in the United States. In short, if you are looking a research-intensive career in a rapidly growing field, microbiology may be right up your alley.