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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 info for some career options for graduates.

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 the perfect field for those interested in biology and working to better understand disease and illness.

Career Microbiologist Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist Postsecondary Biological Studies Teacher
Required Education Bachelor's degree, usually in microbiology Bachelor's degree Ph.D. is usually required
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 7% 14% 19%
Median Salary (2014)* $67,790 $59,430 $74,580

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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. Advanced degrees can 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 estimated that employment for microbiologists is expected to rise by seven percent between 2012 and 2022. The median annual wage for the profession, as of May 2014, is $67,790 (www.bls.gov).

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 to study 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 include general microbiology, the 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 prepares 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. degree 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.

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