Microbiology Lab Manager
So, you think you might like to become a microbiology lab manager. Microbiology lab managers begin their careers as microbiologists, studying microscopic living organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Once they gain experience, microbiologists can seek employment in a leadership or management position.
These professionals often work full-time and keep typical office hours, but they also take on the added stress of running a lab. If they're applied researchers who work for a particular company, they need to meet that company's demands. If they're independent researchers, they often have to work to secure and maintain grants. However, these professionals tend to make higher-than-average salaries, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree is commonly required, though master's may be preferred or required|
|Experience||2 to 5 years of lab experience|
|Licensure||Some states require candidates to have a clinical lab technician license|
|Key Skills||Excellent communication, leadership, interpersonal, critical thinking, and time management skills; understanding of laboratory testing regulations|
|Salary||$120,050 (median annual wage for all natural sciences managers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2013 job postings, ONet OnLine
So, what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important. A bachelor's degree is a great starting point, but a master's degree is often required by employers. The degree field to pursue is microbiology. Employers look for someone with two to five years of experience as a microbiologist. Some states do require a clinical lab technician license.
Key skills for this career include: communication skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, time management skills, and understanding of laboratory testing regulations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all natural science managers is $120,050.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree program in microbiology can help prepare students for a microbiologist position. Degree programs might include coursework in molecular biology, microbiology, virology, prokaryotes, molecular genetics, fungi, immunology, ecology, and cell biology. Students learn through a combination of hands-on laboratory training and in-class instruction.
- Complete an internship program. Many schools and organizations offer internships in various fields of microbiology. Since microbiology lab work is very hands-on, these programs can help students gain practical lab experience that can be valuable when seeking employment.
Step 2: Obtain Licensure
Some states require laboratory technicians to become licensed. Requirements vary, but typically include meeting educational requirements, passing a written examination, and paying a fee. Some states will waive the educational and examination requirements for applicants with specific types of professional experience. States may also require regular license renewal; laboratory workers may need to earn approved continuing education credits and pay renewal fees, depending on the state's requirements.
Step 3: Gain Work Experience
Graduates can seek entry-level employment in a lab, hospital, university, government agency, or industrial company. Once microbiologists gain enough experience, they can apply for a lab manager position. Some management job duties include overseeing lab operations, ensuring quality control, reviewing and auditing staff, maintaining compliance with regulations, and communicating with a lab director.
Step 4: Opportunities for Career Advancement
While not all positions require microbiologists to have graduate-level education, some employers prefer candidates who hold master's degrees. These programs teach students more advanced microbiology skills, and some schools require students to work in a lab, conduct research, provide teaching assistance, and write a thesis. Students might focus their studies in one area of the discipline, such as research and biotechnology, clinical microbiology, or infection control.
Earning a bachelor's degree, obtaining a license, gaining work experience, and pursuing opportunities for advancement are the steps to follow to make the most of a career as a microbiology lab manager.