Diagnostic Microbiology Education and Career Information

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

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A diagnostic microbiologist oversees the work conducted in a laboratory, with duties often including managing staff, interpreting test results, developing healthcare-related programs, and obtaining funds for research. These professionals require a doctoral degree in microbiology in an accredited program offered through either the American Council for Graduate Medical Education or the American Society for Microbiology's Committee on Postgraduate Education Programs. Internships and residencies typically take between 3-8 years to complete, which then qualifies doctors to enter a fellowship program.

Essential Information

Diagnostic microbiologists complete graduate education leading to medical or veterinary board certification. This education prepares them for careers as laboratory directors. Directors may work for pharmaceutical laboratories, university laboratories, hospitals or government laboratories like those at the Centers for Disease Control.

Required Education Doctoral degree in microbiology
Other Requirements Fellowship completion
Projected Job Growth 4% from 2014-2024 for microbiologists*
Median Salary (2015) $67,550 annually for microbiologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Diagnostic Microbiology

Diagnostic microbiology is a medical or veterinary specialty that requires extensive training to achieve board certification. Diagnostic microbiologists study the causes, treatment and control of infectious diseases. These diseases may be caused by things like viruses, bacteria, protozoa, mycobacteria and fungi.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed microbiologists was expected to rise 4% between 2014 and 2024. These professionals earned a median of $67,550 per year as of 2015.

Diagnostic Microbiology Certifications

The American Board of Medical Microbiology certifies physicians and scientists who meet educational or experience requirements. The American Board of Pathology certifies physicians who have completed fellowships in medical microbiology. The American College of Veterinary Microbiologists certifies veterinarians who complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in diagnostic microbiology.

Medical Diagnostic Microbiology Education

Programs in medical microbiology are accredited by the American Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the American Society for Microbiology's Committee on Postgraduate Education Programs. According to the ACGME, practitioners in this field should be able to provide clinical consultations, diagnose infectious diseases and manage a diagnostic laboratory.

Medical Diagnostic Microbiology Fellowship

Medical doctors who have completed an internship and residency, usually over 3-8 years, are eligible to apply for a fellowship. Those who have completed graduate microbiology or immunology classes and have a doctoral degree are also eligible for a fellowship. A university might offer a 1-2 year fellowship with rotations and independent research in subjects like bacteriology, mycobacteriology, mycology, parasitology, virology, molecular microbiology and serology. Students also gain administrative experience intended to prepare them to become diagnostic microbiology laboratory directors.

Medical Diagnostic Microbiology Career Information

Medical diagnostic microbiologists usually work in hospital, university or government laboratories as directors. Directors consult with physicians to interpret test results in conjunction with patient histories. Directors also manage technical staff members and develop programs to control infections in hospitals. Some prepare grant proposals to secure funding for the laboratory and research projects. Laboratory directors may also earn income by acting as pathologists, teaching in local colleges, lecturing, consulting or developing patents.

Veterinary Diagnostic Microbiology Education

Some universities with veterinary medicine schools also offer diagnostic microbiology residency programs for those with Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees. Rotations might include subjects such as diagnostic bacteriology, virology, cell biology, immunology, bioinformatics, disease pathogenesis and molecular genetics. Residents typically must complete a dissertation.

Veterinary Diagnostic Microbiology Career Information

Like medical diagnostic microbiologists, veterinary diagnostic microbiologists are equipped to supervise diagnostic microbiology laboratories for industry, universities and government agencies. Some become tenured professors; others may work as directors of state laboratories. Some examples of laboratories are the Center for Environmental Technology and Toxicology, Arthropod Infectious Disease Laboratory and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Veterinary microbiology laboratory directors also manage technicians. They may teach, prepare grant proposals and consult with veterinarians in private practice.

Diagnostic microbiology careers can involve work in veterinary or medical sciences, with research commonly focused on topics surrounding infectious diseases, such as how to treat and control a disease, as well as understanding its causes. In addition to a doctoral degree, professionals in this field often need to hold certification, which requires both work experience and completion of a Ph.D. or fellowship program. Subjects that aspiring diagnostic microbiologists might study during a residency can include virology, molecular genetics, immunology, mycology, bacteriology, and mycobacteriology.

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