Microbiologist Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a microbiologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and specialization options to find out if this is the career for you.

Microbiologists have a broad range of subsidiary career options to choose from including pharmacology, bacteriology and medical science. A minimum of a bachelor's degree will be required in addition to a thorough understanding of math, science, biology and physics.

Essential Information

Microbiologists research and study algae, bacteria, fungi and other microscopic organisms. Some microbiologists do research to simply advance human knowledge, while others have a particular goal in mind. Degrees are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels to meet a variety of career options. Additionally, students can choose to specialize in a field of microbiology.

Required Education Bachelor of Science in Microbiology minimum requirement; graduate education preferred
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* (for all microbiologists)
Median Salary (May 2015) $67,550* (for all microbiologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Microbiologist Education Requirements

Those interested in becoming microbiologists should have at least a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology. Graduate degrees are preferred by most employers; aside from standard microbiology programs, popular options include the Master of Science in Molecular Genetics or Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology. Specializations are available in specific fields within microbiology, such as pharmacology or medical science. Microbiologists should familiarize themselves with new studies and findings done by other researchers to keep current in the field. Many microbiologists continue to perform independent research projects after graduation.

Classes

Microbiologists must focus on extensive math and science courses at all educational levels. While still enrolled in high school, aspiring microbiologists should take biology, mathematics, physics and chemistry classes to help prepare for college coursework. Sample classes which traverse the undergraduate and graduate level include bacterial genetics and physiology, inorganic and organic chemistry, immunology, analytical chemistry and genetics. These courses involve many hours of lab work and independent research, especially in Ph.D. programs.

Career Information

Microbiologists have career options in a variety of industries, with roles varying by education level. Students with a bachelor's or master's degree in microbiology tend to work as assistants and technicians while doctorate holders can become microbiologists and researchers. Career specializations such as virology, immunology and bioinformatics are available in addition to agricultural, environmental, industrial and food microbiology. Potential employers include universities, government agencies and private industries. Microbiologists can also perform independent research with the help of grants.

Job Duties

Studying microscopic organisms in a lab environment is the main responsibility of microbiologists. Learning about the development and behavior of these organisms can lead to scientific breakthroughs in medical, agricultural and assorted industries. A majority of microbiologists work on a single project at a time in applied research, attempting to resolve a specific issue or problem by conducting research and experiments. However, many microbiologists also perform basic research, which is done without any specific goal in mind aside from expanding scientific knowledge.

Aspiring microbiologists should focus on the study of biology, mathematics, physics and chemistry in secondary and post-secondary school. A bachelor's degree will be the minimum requirement needed; however, prospective microbiologists can continue furthering their knowledge in a graduate or Ph.D. program. Microbiologists will typically need a Ph.D. to conduct independent research or work in colleges and universities.

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