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Become a Microbiology Scientist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a microbiology scientist. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in microbiology. View article »

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  • 0:03 Become a Microbiology…
  • 0:43 Career Requirements
  • 1:43 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:22 Become Certified
  • 3:05 Earn a Doctoral Degree
  • 3:30 Earn Additional Certification

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Video Transcript

Become a Microbiology Scientist

Microbiologists study the characteristics of microscopic organisms such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Most microbiologists work in laboratories and conduct fundamental research to increase scientific knowledge. The work can sometimes be hazardous, since microbiologists might handle dangerous organisms in the course of their research. Some microbiologists collect these samples themselves from lakes and water sources, while others stick to the lab. Generally, these professionals work full-time, and most make a yearly salary that is higher than the national average, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Requirements

Required degree levels vary based on position. A bachelor's degree in microbiology is sufficient for many settings, while a doctoral degree is necessary for advanced research work. Voluntary certification is available through various organizations, including the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists and the American Medical Board of Microbiology. Aspiring microbiologists need lab experience; advanced research positions may require postdoctoral research work. Key skills include analytical, interpersonal, mathematical, speaking and writing skills, and being detail-oriented. Knowledge of scientific, query, medical, and spreadsheet software is crucial to this position. A microbiologist must be able to use a variety of specialized equipment such as electron microscopes and gas chromatographs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary was $67,550 as of May 2015.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring microbiology scientists are required to earn at least a bachelor's degree in microbiology or a closely related field. Microbiologists need a solid foundation of the sciences. Microbiology majors take courses such as microbial physiology, virology, chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. Many of these courses include a laboratory component, which is important for prospective microbiologists.

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Complete an internship. College students can work as company or laboratory interns to gain valuable experience within the field.

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Become Certified

Step 2: Become Certified

Certification, while not required for employment, could help job seekers enhance their opportunities in the workforce. The American College of Microbiology certifies qualified candidates within the field through its credentialing boards and registries. Microbiologists who have completed a degree program may qualify to earn a Registered Microbiologist credential conferred by the organization's National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM). Earning the credential involves submitting documented educational achievement and work experience, as well as completing a qualifying examination. In order to recertify, individuals have to complete a standard amount of continuing education in a certain time period.

Earn a Doctoral Degree

Step 3: Earn a Doctoral Degree in Microbiology

Microbiologists who plan to conduct independent research or work in universities are required to obtain a Ph.D. in Microbiology. Students in these doctoral programs may specialize in a subfield, such as virology. Along with class work, students are required to complete laboratory research and a dissertation.

Earn Additional Certification

Step 4: Earn Additional Certification

Doctoral-level microbiologists who seek to direct clinical laboratories may be certified by the American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) in order to fulfill state licensing requirements that may be necessary for medical laboratory management. Additionally, the NRCM offers certification options at the doctoral level. Continuing education is required to qualify for recertification.

Microbiologists study the characteristics of microscopic organisms and make an annual salary of $67,550 as of May 2015.

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