Microbiologist: Educational Requirements for a Career in Microbiology

Microbiologists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education requirements and job duties to see if a career in microbiology is right for you.

Microbiology may be an attractive career field for someone with an interest in laboratory work, and with a strong science background. With a minimum of a bachelor's degree, microbiologists can potentially work in the pharmaceutical, environmental, or agricultural sectors.

Essential Information

Microbiologists study microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi and microscopic parasites. Microbiologists typically complete at least a bachelor's degree program in microbiology or a related biological science. In order to enter some fields, such as teaching or advanced research, microbiologists may need to complete an advanced degree program.

Required Education Bachelor's degree for entry-level positions; doctoral degree is common among college teachers and independent researchers
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 4%
Average Salary (2015)* $76,230

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Microbiologists

To become a microbiologist, a person needs to complete a bachelor's degree program in microbiology. These programs introduce students to concepts in bioinformatics, virology and immunology. Microbiology students also take laboratory courses to see firsthand how microorganisms react to different stimuli and behave in different environments. Graduates may work in the pharmaceutical, agricultural or food production industries.

Advanced Degree Options

Students interested in conducting high-level research projects or taking on more complicated work may need a Master of Science or Ph.D. in Microbiology or a subfield like bacteriology. Students in these programs often gain specialized knowledge though advanced studies. Additionally, many students are responsible for planning and conducting research experiments on topics in their respective fields of study. Upon graduation, these professionals may find employment with government agencies, university research departments and private laboratories.

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Careers in Microbiology

The field of microbiology is a specialization under the umbrella term biological science. Biological scientists study living organisms and how these organisms interact with their environments. These scientists are found in positions ranging from research and development (R&D) to pharmaceutical drug management. Their roles may include performing experiments to increase the field's knowledge of a particular subject and creating more effective and cheaper medicines.

In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that microbiologists' average annual salary was $76,230, with the middle 50% of these workers earning between $48,980 and $96,900 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also noted that jobs for microbiologists are expected to increase four percent between 2014-2024.


Specific duties for microbiologists may include monitoring microscopic organisms and studying how they grow. Microbiologists may track the growth of parasites within an organism to observe how the parasite grows or affects the host. These professionals may work with botanists to uncover how different strains of disease affect crops. They may work with environmentalists to check the levels of bacteria in rivers. Other duties of a microbiologist may include compiling data, formulating conclusions and publishing papers.

In conclusion, this article explores the different areas in which a microbiologist might work, including in environmental science, the food industry, and the biomedical industry. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to begin a career as a microbiologist, and an advanced degree might be necessary for pursuing a job as an academic researcher or teacher.

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