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Career as a Microbiologist

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Who is a Microbiologist?

A microbiologist is a scientist who studies microscopic organisms including bacteria, algae, and fungi. Often, they study organisms that cause disease and environmental damage or are of industrial or agricultural interest. They also study the characteristics of nonliving pathogens, such as viruses and prions. Microbiologists often use cutting-edge techniques and sophisticated machinery along with biotechnology, genetics, or other related fields to perform their duties and study microbes.

What does a Microbiologist do?

•Plan and conduct complex research projects, such as developing new drugs to combat infectious diseases

•Supervise the work of biological technicians and other workers and evaluate the accuracy of their results

•Isolate and maintain cultures of bacteria or other microorganisms for future study

•Identify and classify microorganisms found in specimens collected from humans, water, food, and other sources

•Monitor the effect of microorganisms on plants, animals, and other microorganisms and on the environment

•Keep up with findings from other research groups by reading research reports and attending conferences

•Prepare technical reports, research papers, and recommendations based on their research findings

•Present research findings to scientists, non-scientist executives, engineers, other colleagues, and the public

•Most microbiologists work in research and development. Many conduct basic research with the aim of increasing scientific knowledge. Others conduct applied research, using knowledge from basic research to develop new products or solve particular problems. For example, microbiologists help to develop genetically engineered crops, biofuels, and ways to protect the environment.

•Microbiologists use computers and a wide variety of sophisticated laboratory instruments to do their experiments and analyse the results. For example, they use powerful electron microscopes to study bacteria. They use advanced computer software to analyse the growth of microorganisms found in samples.

•An increasing number of scientific research projects involve multiple disciplines, and it is common for microbiologists to work on teams with technicians and scientists in other fields. For example, microbiologists researching new drugs may work with medical scientists and biochemists to develop new medicines such as antibiotics and vaccines. As another example, microbiologists in medical diagnostic laboratories work alongside physicians, nurses, medical laboratory technologists and technicians and other health professionals to help prevent, treat, and cure diseases.

Types of Microbiology

Pure Microbiology- branches of pure microbiology are those in which scientists study a particular group of microorganisms for the sole purpose of understanding them better, and not to a specific end, such as learning how to use one bacteria to prevent the spread of another. Fields of pure microbiology include mycology, which is the study of fungi. Virology is the study of viruses. Immunology is the study of the immune system. Phycologists study microscopic algae. Protozoologists study protozoa. Parasitologists study parasitic microorganisms. Bacteriologists study bacteria strains, and nematologists study nematodes.

Applied Microbiology- Applied microbiology is the study of microorganisms for the sake of using them, or controlling them in a way that aids humanity. For example, medical microbiologists study how microorganisms -- such as bacteria and viruses -- cause diseases in humans. Other branches of applied microbiology include industrial microbiology, in which scientists use microorganisms to develop products. In food microbiology, for example, they might develop new bacterial cultures for dairy products. Other fields of applied microbiology include pharmaceutical microbiology and microbial biotechnology.

Evolutionary Microbiology- Another branch of microbiology exists that is dedicated to studying the DNA and evolution of different types of microbes. Microbial taxonomy, for example, deals exclusively with the categorising and naming of microbes. Generation microbiologists study biological relationships between microbes and their parents, as well as to their distant ancestors. Systems microbiologists study microbes in a way that serves as a point of contact between microbiology and systems biology. Evolutionary microbiology, like other branches, often is employed as an applied field study in that scientists use what they learn to serve a specific industrial or medical purpose.

Environmental and Agricultural Microbiology- nThe fields of environmental and agricultural microbiology examine how microbes behave in their natural environments, and how microbes interact with larger living organisms. Agricultural microbiology focuses primarily on the agriculturally harmful and useful properties of microbes. For example, scientists will study how certain fungi cause diseases in animals and plants, as well as how to use microorganisms to develop better organic fertilisers. Environmental microbiologists, conversely, tend to focus on large groups of microbes as opposed to individual species. For example, they will study how many different types of microbial species function together when disposing of large-scale biological waste.

Types of Microbiologists:

Bacteriologists: They study the pattern of growth, development, and other characteristics of bacteria, including the positive and negative effects that can be brought about by bacteria on plants, animals, and humans.

Clinical microbiologists: They execute a vast range of medical laboratory tests on collected specimens from plants, animals, and humans to aid in the detection of disease. Those microbiologists (clinical and medical) whose work takes in researching human health directly may be categorised as medical scientists.

Environmental microbiologists: They make a study of how the interaction of microorganisms with the environment and with each other. They also study the use of microbes to clean up the sites contaminated by heavy metals and further investigate increasing crop growth with the aid of microbes.

Industrial microbiologists: Industrial production processes are studied by them and also problems related to these processes are being solved. Examination of microbial growth in the pipes of a chemical factory may be done. Further, they can also keep an eye on the impact of the industrial waste on the local ecosystem, or even supervise the microbial activities involved in cheese production to guarantee the quality.

Mycologists: They study the characteristics of fungi such as mold and yeast. A study is made to find out ways of how fungi can be beneficial to the society (for instance, in the environment or food) and also the risks that may be posed by fungi.

Parasitologists: Life cycle of parasites is studied. Further, the host-parasite relationship and the adaptation of parasites to different environments is studied. The outburst and further control of parasitic diseases such as malaria may also be investigated.

Public health microbiologists: Examination of specimens is done to pursue, regulate, and avert transmittable diseases and other health perils. Laboratory services are provided by them for local health units and community health programs.

Virologists: Structure, development, and further properties of viruses are studied and, further any effects that viruses have on infected organisms is also being researched.

Workplace and Environment of a Microbiologist:

Some microbiologist perform field work, collecting samples outside of the laboratory - working to study local microbes, improve public health and track diseases as they move around a local region, or even around the world. Others work in an industrial setting, placing them in a bit more hazardous conditions than a hospital or laboratory. They may encounter heavy equipment or extreme conditions that can be dangerous. Fortunately, there are many safety regulations and protective gear and machinery that helps keep workers in these roles safe.

Many very educated microbiologists become academic faculty, acting as professors and researchers at learning institutions around the world. These people spend all their time experimenting and analysing, publishing their results and educating the next generation on the facts, processes, and techniques that they sometimes themselves have discovered. Still other microbiologists work simultaneously in multiple venues within the science or in many of the smaller microbiology areas.

Knowledge Areas to be Acquired

•Biology—Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.

•Education and Training—Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

•Chemistry—Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal m

•English Language—Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

•Mathematics—Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.

•Computers and Electronics—Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

•Administration and Management—Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.

•Clerical—Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.

•Mechanical—Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.

•Public Safety and Security—Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.


•Reading—Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

•Science—Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.

•Writing—Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

•Learning New Things—Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

•Thinking Critically—Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

•Making Decisions—Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

•Listening—Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

•Managing Time—Managing one's own time and the time of others.

•Solving Complex Problems—Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

•Speaking—Talking to others to convey information effectively.

•Collecting information from different sources.

•Documenting or recording information.

•Keeping up-to-date with new knowledge.

•Compiling, calculating, tabulating, or otherwise processing information.

•Identifying information by categorising, comparing, or detecting changes in circumstances or events.

•Using computers.

•Analysing data or information.

•Communicating with supervisors, co-workers, or people that work under you.

A Typical Workday

•Investigate the relationship between organisms and disease including the control of epidemics and the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms.

•Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists.

•Provide laboratory services for health departments, for community environmental health programs and for physicians needing information for diagnosis and treatment.

•Use a variety of specialised equipment such as electron microscopes, gas chromatographs and high pressure liquid chromatographs, electrophoresis units, thermocyclers, fluorescence activated cell sorters and phosphoimagers.

•Examine physiological, morphological, and cultural characteristics, using microscope, to identify and classify microorganisms in human, water, and food specimens.

Personality Traits

Microbiologists tend to be predominantly investigative individuals, which means that they are quite inquisitive and curious people that often like to spend time alone with their thoughts. They also tend to be realistic, which means that they often enjoy working outdoors or applying themselves to a hands-on project.

An Investigative person is someone who lives in the mind. To solve problems they prefer reading and studying, books and texts, rather than using their hands. They tend to analyse situations before making decisions. Investigative people are independent thinkers that are both curious and insightful.

A realistic person is someone who is very body-oriented. This individual enjoys using their hands and eyes to solve practical problems. They like doing outdoor, mechanical, and physical activities. It’s very natural for a realistic person to relate to the physical world— this type of person usually does not deal with problems concerning ideas, data, or people, but rather, they like to concentrate on problems they can solve with their hands.


Becoming a microbiologist require the study of microbiology, of course! You can also study similar subjects such as biology or ecology, where you'll receive education on the topic of microbiology as well. Generally, microbiology work requires at least a Bachelor's degree. Most colleges or universities will likely have courses that let you work toward this field, or at least offer courses that may transfer to a microbiology program elsewhere. Getting a bachelors degree in microbiology is a great way to jump-start a career. From there, microbiologists can continue their education in medicine, veterinary studies, or numerous other graduate and post-graduate positions in the science.

Job Outlook

Employment of microbiologists is estimated to grow nearly 8 percent over the coming ten years, which is as fast as the average for all professions. More microbiologists will be required for contribution to basic research and for solving glitches of industrial production. There will be a need for microbiologists to conduct research and thus develop novel medicines and treatments, such as antibiotics and vaccines. Besides, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will need microbiologists to develop drugs which are produced with the service of microorganisms.Alongside improving health, further areas of research and development are expected to cater to employment progress for microbiologists. Microbiologists will be needed by many companies, from chemical companies to food producers, to warrant product quality and production effectiveness. In an expedition to find more clean sources of energy, microbiologists will be involved, such as industrial microbiologists and mycologists, who research and develop alternate energy sources such as biomass and biofuels. Further, microbiologists will be needed in agriculture to help in developing genetically engineered crops that offer superior yields or involve less fertiliser and pesticide. Lastly, the use of microbiologists will be made in endeavours to uncover up-to-the-minute and improved ways to safeguard public health and preserve the environment.


If you are looking for a job as a Microbiologist in India, your average starting salary as a fresher will be around Rs 3 Lakh p.a. With Experience and ample skills acquired you can climb up the career ladder and grab a pay package of up to Rs 10 lakh p.a. If you are looking forward to a stable and long term career in the field of microbiology a Ph.D. degree in Microbiology or related subjects will just to the magic for you.

Average Salary Annual Pay Package

Average Salary As a Fresher Microbiologist Rs 3 Lakh p.a

Average Salary With 5-6 Years of Experience as Microbiologist Rs 10 Lakh p.a

Average Salary As a Senior Microbiologist / Research Scientist Rs 20 Lakh p.a

Frequently Asked Questions

An advice for those seeking career in microbiology?

•Master the basics- To be an effective microbiologist, you must become proficient in the fundamentals.Working in a laboratory also means being accountable.

•For students just starting out, choose your university wisely- Find a university that offers the program and courses you need to succeed. Maintain a good relationship with professors as they can be essential in getting a job upon degree completion.”

•Work experience is important- Taking on a part-time job or internship is a smart move that will prepare you for a full-time position.Any laboratory experience is valuable, even if it’s not in your exact area of focus. Many places hiring microbiology students want them to have prior lab experience outside of school. You can get college credit for an internship which not only helps you graduate, but it also gives outside lab experience, the ability to network, and you might even snag a job where you interned! Even if that internship is performing lab work for a veterinarian facility, water testing for the DNR, a hospital, a dairy operation, or even at a feed testing lab for cattle. All of these places lead to experiences in testing, record keeping, multi-tasking, streaking skills, and more!

•When it comes to your career path, don’t be afraid to think outside the laboratory- Working in a laboratory everyday isn’t right for everyone. You may love microbiology but don’t want to live the lab-life, and that’s OK. Your career career options are boundless if you think creatively and seize opportunities outside the laboratory.If you want to stay in laboratory setting, it’s wise to keep your options open. Career paths can take unexpected twist and turns. It is recommendedto be open to the opportunities life presents to you.

•Finding a job can be difficult- Demonstrating to an employer that you’re a well-rounded candidate it a big plus.

•Microbiologists are held accountable for their results- Don’t forget the importance of QC.As quality control (QC) experts, we understand the vital role QC plays in every laboratory.

•Always remember, microbiology is awesome!- Microorganisms are alive and ever changing, keeping things interesting. There is always something new to discover and learn!

What hours do Microbiologists work?

Here is a list of tasks that Microbiologists do on a weekly or monthly basis.

•Prepare technical reports and recommendations based upon research outcomes.

•Study the structure and function of human, animal and plant tissues, cells, pathogens and toxins.

•Conduct chemical analyses of substances such as acids, alcohols, and enzymes.

•Based on the weekly/monthly tasks a Microbiologist may work more than 40 hours per week.

Who employs Microbiologists?

With the potential role of microbes in biotechnology as well as their new appreciation in environmental and human health, microbiologists today work as intact members of interdisciplinary squads in clinics, hospitals, industry, universities, and government. They are on the cutting edge of science.

•The significant employers of microbiologists are as follows:

•The state government, excluding education and hospitals—18%

•Universities, colleges, and professional schools; state, local and private—14%

•Medicine manufacturing and pharmaceutical—32%

•Research and development in life sciences—36%

Are Microbiologists happy?

According an ongoing survey with millions of people and asking them how satisfied they are with their careers. As it turns out, microbiologists rate their career happiness 3.1 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 38% of careers.

What Are the Dangers of Being a Microbiologist?

Physical Danger-

Suppose one could cut their finger on some lab equipment or something.

Actually, microbiologists do have to be pretty careful. They very often work with powerful chemicals and dangerous pathogens. So, safety measures are to be taken seriously.

Is Microbiology an art or a science?

Microbiology is an applied science, helping agriculture, health and medicine and maintenance of the environment, as well as the biotechnology industry. Microbiologists study microbes at the level of the community (ecology and epidemiology), at the level of the cell (cell biology and physiology) and at the level of proteins and genes (molecular biology)..

Is it worth becoming a Microbiologist?

A career in microbiology can be highly rewarding financially. Of course, your location, experience and education play an important role in how much you earn. But it is interesting to note that the average annual salary of a microbiologist ranges around Rs 20 lakh.

What are the related degree options for a Microbiologist?

Some of the Related Degree Options for Microbiologists:

Environmental Microbiology Degree

Forensic Anthropology

Biological Science Degree Options

Environmental Chemistry Degree

Geodesign Online Degree Info

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