Medical Microbiology Careers: Job Options and Requirements

Medical microbiology is studied at the postsecondary level and focuses on organisms that cause diseases. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary information for some career options.

Essential Information

Medical microbiology is a field of scientific study that includes looking at bacteria, viruses, and parasites in connection with disease and illness. Degrees can be obtained at the bachelor's, master's, doctoral and post-doctorate levels, leading to a variety of career paths. Medical microbiology is a great field for those interested in biology and working to better understand disease and illness.

Career Options

Medical microbiology includes studies of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, all of which can be seen as the cause, and often part of the cure, for various diseases. Those with an undergraduate degree can work as research technicians in the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and academia.

One specific job in this field that's available with an undergraduate degree is medical and clinical laboratory technologist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for medical and clinical laboratory technologists could increase by 14% between 2014 and 2024, which was well above the average for all occupations. These professionals made a mean annual wage of $61,860 as of May 2015, per the BLS.

An advanced degree could translate to a career as a college educator or contributing member of a scientific team, which eventually could result in a leadership or management position, such as the director of an immunology or clinical microbiology laboratory. Employers include:

  • Government agencies, such as the Center for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health
  • Private health care services and philanthropic organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the American Heart Association
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Medical schools and university-affiliated teaching hospitals
  • Veterinary hospitals

Upward mobility in this profession requires not only scientific skills, but also good communication, business, and management techniques. With advanced education and experience, medical microbiologists can develop and manage their own research projects.

The BLS projected that employment for microbiologists would rise by 4 percent between 2014 and 2024, which was slower than for all occupations. Opportunities for postsecondary biological studies teachers, however, were expected to increase by 16% over the same decade. As of May 2015, the mean annual wage for microbiologists was $76,230, while postsecondary biological science teachers earned an average annual salary of $86,830.

Educational Requirements

Earning a bachelor's degree in medical microbiology or medical laboratory sciences gives graduates the opportunity to enter the field as technologists or teachers at the high school level, or to continue on for an advanced degree. Undergraduate programs provide coursework in theoretical and technical aspects of the field through classroom and laboratory studies. First- and second-year courses might include general microbiology, biology of microorganisms, immunology, biochemistry and anatomy. Upper division courses, such as genetics, microbial physiology, bacteriology, and hematology, focus heavily on laboratory applications.

A master's degree program in medical microbiology might prepare graduates to teach at the college and university level or to work as laboratory managers, supervisors, or research associates. Master's degree programs in microbiology focus on advanced topics and laboratory training, which helps to direct students toward research projects that correspond with their interests. Through the help of a mentor, the project is often the final arbiter toward earning a master's degree.

A Ph.D. program usually begins with students choosing a particular research topic. The student then develops a hypothesis and a plan to prove it through research. Earning the degree hinges on presenting a final report and dissertation. Graduates can then obtain a postdoctoral position, which provides the opportunity for publication, a necessary step in obtaining a tenured faculty position at a college or university.

In summary, various medical microbiology careers such as medical and clinical laboratory technologist, microbiologist, and postsecondary biological science teacher are available based on a professional's interest and level of education.

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