The job of a microbiologist involves the study of microorganisms, their relation to the environment, and diseases caused by them. They study microorganisms like fungi, yeast, protozoa, viruses, bacteria, etc., with the help of powerful microscopes.
Microbiologist are scientists and their job mostly consists of work that is restricted to laboratory conditions. However, the job details vary according to the employer organization and the educational qualifications of the candidate.
There are microbiologists who work as teachers in education institutes, while others take up research positions with pharmaceutical companies. Microbiology is a vast field and constitutes the study of microscopic living organisms found in animals, plants, etc. Biology students mostly opt for a specialty when they are studying. For example, some may choose to gain expertise in studying bacteria and its relation to food, environment, and diseases.
Education and Salary
One of the basic requirements to become a microbiologist is to have a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology. This is the basic requirement for most entry-level jobs in this profession. However, employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree or a doctorate in microbiology, with specialization in specific subjects. Their duties depend on their educational qualification.
A master’s degree focuses on enhancing a student’s knowledge of cell physiology, virology, pathogenic microbiology, immunology, etc. Employers looking to hire people for research or teaching positions generally prefer candidates with a Ph.D. The salary also depends on the education. It can range anywhere between USD 36,000 to USD 90,000 annually. Pharmaceutical companies mostly hire microbiologists and the average salary can range between USD 46,000 to USD 62,000 annually. The healthcare industry also requires them and the average salary in this sector ranges between USD 39,000 to USD 54,000.
The job mostly consists of studying microorganisms under laboratory conditions. However, some of them, working in managerial positions, will have to take up administrative responsibilities. A few of them also take up teaching positions and their job duties are dictated by the terms of the education institute.
Job responsibilities also depend on the work profile. A food microbiologist deals with various aspects of the industry like preservation and hygiene. They are also required to study the effects of certain microorganisms on food, to prevent outbreaks of foodborne diseases. For example, they have to look out for dangerous organisms like E. Coli and Salmonella.
Another specialization in the field is clinical microbiology. Here the job involves studying diseases caused due to bacteria or viruses. They are also required to develop and test new medicines that prevent the outbreak of diseases and epidemics. They study fungi, bacteria, viruses, etc. to find their medicinal qualities. They also study their role in causing contagious diseases.
Some prefer working as consultants and they supervise diagnostic methods and examining specimens of bacteria, virus, fungi, protozoa, etc. Organizations hire them as consultants and assign them the responsibility of quality assurance. They will be required to check and make sure that procedures, equipment, and the testing facilities meet industry requirements. Consultants are also required to interact with administrative officers like managers, CEO, etc. and act as a liaison with clients.
A few also acquire specialization in forensic microbiology and work for law enforcement agencies. They use their skills to detect illegal substances that can be used as poisons, or in chemical and biological attacks. They also test evidence found at crime scenes to find out the time frame of the crime and come up with clues that will identify the suspect. The recent rise in terrorist threats and the use of biological weapons has made this a much sought after expertise.
The job profile varies according to the employer organization and the expertise of the candidate. Most microbiologists work under laboratory conditions and conduct experiments to ascertain the use and ill-effects of microorganisms. According to statistics, the job outlook for this profession in the coming years is good, with better than average growth in the future.