What Does a Microbiologist Do?

MicrobiologistBefore declaring a major in microbiology, it is important that you learn what a microbiologist does to make sure that you are the right match for this scientific career path. In short, microbiologists are highly trained scientists who specialize their research in studying the microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye, including bacteria, fungi, algae, viruses, and certain parasites. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of microbiologists will grow slower than average at 7% before 2022, there will be good job prospects for qualified microbiologists to contribute to applied research, especially in monitoring environmental conditions that threaten public health. Read on to find a full job description for microbiologists to determine whether you are destined to gaze into microscopes and play a prominent role in scientific research discoveries.

What Microbiologists Do

Microbiologists will use their expertise in using sophisticated laboratory instruments to study how small microorganisms live, grow, reproduce, and interact with their environments to enhance scientific knowledge. In most cases, microbiologists are responsible for planning complex research projects, supervising the work of biological technicians, maintaining cultures of microorganisms, identifying microorganisms found in specimens, monitoring the impact of microorganisms on the environment, staying up-to-date on the latest findings of other researchers, publishing research papers, and presenting their reports to non-scientist executives or the general public. Microbiologists usually focus their studies on solving a specific problem that is currently impacting the world, such as eliminating food-borne illnesses, treating epidemics, developing green technologies, or tracking microbes in climate change.

Where Microbiologists Work

Since there are so many different species of microorganisms floating out there that can have a tremendous affect on millions of human lives, there is a need for microbiologists to work in nearly every industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 20,100 microbiologists currently employed in laboratories and offices across the nation. The highest percentage of microbiologists are working in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, but job opportunities also exist in research firms, government agencies, universities, hospitals, water treatment facilities, schools, biotechnology companies, and more. At the federal level, there are many microbiologists bringing their talents to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

How to Become a Microbiologist

For entering entry-level microbiologist jobs, it is typically required that individuals have earned at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a major in microbiology, biological sciences, or a closely related field. In preparing for the role of microbiologist, it is recommended that students fill up their schedules with courses in microbial genetics, microbial physiology, virology, environmental microbiology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, mathematics, statistics, research methods, computer science, and epidemiology. Aspiring microbiologists seeking more advanced positions carrying out independent research or teaching at the collegiate level must earn a Ph.D degree in their chosen area of expertise, such as immunology or bacteriology.

Related Resource: Jobs in Health Policy

Although you likely will not encounter any microbiologists in your daily activities, the efforts of these highly trained scientists to increase scientific knowledge on our world’s microscopic inhabitants affect you every day. Microbiologists work behind the scenes to keep drinking water clean, harness microorganisms for making medicines, solving the mystery of new illnesses, addressing environmental problems from climate change, and much more. Now that you know what a microbiologist does, you can determine whether you will be among the world’s next generation of scientists learning how microbes impact our planet.