Become a Hospital Microbiologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a hospital microbiologist. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in hospital microbiology. View article »

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Video Transcript

Hospital Microbiologists

Hospital microbiologists, also known as medical or clinical laboratory technologists or medical lab scientists, examine specimens of bodily fluids for microorganisms, as well as analyze fluid samples to determine how patients are reacting to treatments. Microbiologists use chemicals, machines, other microorganisms, and other materials to complete analysis of bodily fluids and determine the presence of bacteria, viruses, and pharmaceuticals that doctors and medical personnel can use to diagnose conditions and illnesses.

The majority of such technologists and scientists work on a full-time basis. Those who work in hospitals may have staggered, irregular 8-hour shifts that include nights and weekends. Protective gear, clothing, and procedures are necessary to keep microbiologists safe from illnesses and injury. Physical strength may be required of microbiologists who help collect samples from patients, since they may need to be lifted or turned.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's
Degree Field(s) Microbiology or a related field
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure requirements vary by state; medical technologist certification is technically voluntary but might be part of a state's licensure requirements
Experience None (for entry-level positions)
Key Skills Listening and speaking skills; detail-oriented; good judgment; knowledge of medical software, common office software, and databases; knowledge of laboratory equipment, such as calorimeters, chemical analysis equipment, and photometers
Median Salary (2015)* $67,550 (for all microbiologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

Become a Hospital Microbiologist

Step 1: Prepare for College

For those still in high school, the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) recommends focusing heavily on science courses, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. The ASM also notes that aspiring microbiologists should consider taking high school courses in mathematics and physics to prepare for their undergraduate careers.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Microbiology

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that aspiring medical and clinical laboratory technologists might consider a bachelor's degree program in microbiology, biology, or a closely related field. While degree requirements vary by major, courses generally cover fundamental concepts in biochemistry, cell biology, and immunology. Advanced courses and labs in these majors might explore topics in microscopic organisms, genetics, and medical microbiology. Additionally, an internship in a lab can provide valuable work experience. In addition to an internship in microbiology, a student might benefit from internships in other areas of biology or chemistry.

Step 3: Complete Licensure Requirements

Clinical laboratory technologists need to be licensed or registered in some states. Licensure generally requires earning a bachelor's degree and successfully completing a state examination. Prospective candidates can consult their state boards for more specific information.

Step 4: Earn Certification

Some jobs require applicants to be certified. Job seekers can look to national certifying organizations, such as the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP), for certifications. Eligibility requirements differ, but generally include at least a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, or a related field and one year of laboratory work experience. Qualified applicants can then take the respective certification exam to earn their credentials. The ASCP also offers specialty certification in numerous fields, including microbiology. Though it may not be required for employment, certification is a potential method of setting an applicant apart from others.

Step 5: Maintain Certification

The ASCP requires individuals to re-certify every three years. This is accomplished through documenting professional activities and seeking continuing education in medical technology and microbiology. Even if certification isn't a requirement for employment, the activities allow individuals to maintain current knowledge of the field, and the certification shows a dedication to quality of work.

To summarize, hospital microbiologists need at least a bachelor's degree in microbiology, biology, or a related field. Licensure might be required depending on the state, and some employers might require candidates to have professional certification.

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