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Parasitologist: Job Description, Salary and Career Outlook

Parasitologists require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to see if this is the right career for you.

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Potentially harmful parasites can lurk anywhere, and parasitologists study these microorganisms and help keep people free from them. Parasitologists are a type of microbiologist, who make around $67,550 a year. A slow 4% job growth is expected in this field from 2014 to 2024.

Essential Information

Parasitologists study parasites and their relationship with their host environment, as well as the effect this relationship may have on humans. Parasitologists work in many fields including medicine, agriculture and academia, and their job duties are varied. They can focus their studies in many branches of biology, including microbiology and biochemistry. A bachelor's degree is the minimum to work in this field, and research positions call for a doctoral degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree; doctoral degree required for some positions
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4% for microbiologists
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $67,550 for microbiologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Job Description for Parasitologists

Parasitology is a branch of biology concerned with organisms that feed off of the plants or animals in which they live. Parasitologists conduct research in many fields because parasites occur in numerous environments and forms, from viruses and bacteria to insects and plants. Some of the primary research areas noted by the American Society of Parasitologists (asp.unl.edu) include:

  • Medicine and human disease
  • Food production
  • Wildlife management
  • Parasite evolution and taxonomy
  • Genetics
  • Vaccine development

The actual job duties for parasitologists vary by position and specialization. Much of their work, however, involves exploring the relationship between parasites and their hosts. Ecologists who work in systematic parasitology focus on the evolution of parasites in response to environmental changes.

In the medical arena, parasitologists try to better understand diseases in order to devise treatments and preventive methods. Agricultural parasitologists research the effect of parasites in plants and animals, paying particular attention to those that are food resources for humans. Wildlife parasitologists find ways to safeguard animals in their natural habitats. At the molecular level, biochemists examine the genetic structures of parasites.

Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) held that microbiologists earned a median annual wage of $67,550, while food scientists made $65,840 in 2015. Overall, biological scientists earned a median annual income of $75,150 in that same year. In the medical arena, pay may be higher. According to the BLS, medical scientists earned a median salary of $82,240 annually in 2015.

Career Outlook

The BLS predicted that jobs for microbiologists would grow by 4% from 2014-2024, slower than the average for all jobs in the country. However, job opportunities for biochemists and biophysicists, reserved for professionals with a relevant doctoral degree, are predicted to increase by a faster-than-average rate of 8% between 2014 and 2024, largely due to the growth of the biotechnology industry. In academia, research positions were expected to continue to be competitive. Additionally, the BLS maintained that federal grant money would be highly sought after and competitive.

An individual who plans to become a parasitologist should earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant field such as biology, though many opt for doctorates to qualify for research positions. A parasitologist can conduct research in a number of areas, including parasitic effect on humans, animals, and plants. Job growth in relevant fields is projected to be steady over the next few years, and salaries vary by industry.

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