Clinical microbiologists work in laboratories, where they examine specimens in order to identify infectious organisms that cause disease. For an entry-level position, a bachelor's degree in a related field (such as biology or chemistry) is generally required.
Clinical microbiologists analyze blood, tissue and other samples to find the disease-causing organisms present in people, animals and foods. These professionals may also help physicians diagnose and control the spread of infections.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree for entry-level positions|
|Other Requirements||Voluntary certification available|
|Projected Growth (2014-2024)*||7% (microbiologists, all fields)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$67,550 (microbiologists, all fields)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for a Clinical Microbiologist
Clinical microbiology is the science of identifying and isolating infectious disease-causing organisms. Accordingly, clinical microbiologists conduct examinations on specimens collected from patients and animals for bacterial, viral, protozoan and fungal infections. This may include studying how diseases spread and using research findings to help control the spread of infections.
Clinical microbiologists work in laboratories and may be required to participate in rotating night and weekend shifts. They use tools like Petri dishes, test tubes, reagents and culture media. Optical and electron microscopes, centrifuges and gas chromatographs are also used. In some cases, they risk exposure to diseases, illnesses, noxious fumes, high-pressure laboratory systems and radiation.
Duties of a Clinical Microbiologist
Clinical microbiologist duties include assisting physicians in diagnosing illnesses and selecting treatments. As such, clinical microbiologists may be responsible for producing viral vaccines and other substances for medical analyses. Additionally, these professionals may culture organisms and test food samples for potential food poisoning agents.
Salary and Employment Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes clinical microbiologists within the larger group of microbiologists when reporting salary and employment growth predictions. The BLS expected all microbiologists to see employment grow by 7% from 2014 until 2024. The BLS reported a median annual income of $67,550 for microbiologists in May of 2015.
Requirements for a Clinical Microbiologist
Entry-level clinical microbiologists generally need at least a bachelor's degree in microbiology, biology, chemistry or related field. Equivalent education and experience may be an acceptable alternative. Bachelor's degree programs in these subjects typically cover cell physiology and reproduction. Coursework in immunology and virology may also be required.
Clinical microbiologists must understand how to conduct laboratory tests and prepare biological products. Understanding the causes of diseases enables them to accurately assist in diagnosis and treatment. They also need to understand laws, regulations and standards related to the medical industry.
Clinical microbiologists looking to show their expertise in the field may consider voluntary certifications offered by nationally recognized organizations, such as the American Society for Microbiology. Eligibility requirements generally include at least a bachelor's degree in a closely related field and work experience. Qualifying candidates may take certification exams to earn their credentials. Once certified, these professionals typically must complete continuing education credits to maintain their status.
In addition to the required education, clinical microbiologists must also have a thorough knowledge of how to conduct lab tests and use lab equipment. An understanding of laws and regulations related to the medical industry is also an important job requirement. Knowing the education and training required to become a clinical microbiologist is a great first step in considering if this is the right career for you.