What Does a Microbiologist Do?


In general, microbiologists study microscopic organisms, which are organisms too small to see with the naked eye. There are many types of microscopic organisms so microbiologists tend to specialize in one certain field within microbiology creating many types of microbiologists. Microbiologists study these microorganisms learning about their ecology, their survival, how they affect us and how we can utilize them.


  • The field of microbiology includes the study of viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoa. Microbiologists who study viruses are known as virologists. Those that study bacteria are bacteriologists. The study of fungi is called mycology. An immunologist studies how microorganisms affect the body and cause disease.


  • Most microbiologists spend a great deal of their time in laboratories conducting research. In the laboratories they use a variety of scientific equipment including microscopes, live cultures and incubators to name a few. Research microbiologists spend a great deal of time writing and publishing their findings in scientific journals.


  • Many microbiologists choose to teach in addition to their research. Many are employed by universities who provide them with laboratory space and grants. In return they must spend a portion of their time teaching.


  • Medical microbiologists are doctors who specialize in the microscopic organisms that infect the human body and the diseases they cause. They often lead a research team while also seeing patients who suffer from the diseases.


  • Microbiologists may also be employed by the government. Typically these microbiologists will perform research trying to find cures for not only diseases, but also biological agents that can be used against our nation. They may also research how to utilize microscopic organisms as weapons or in industrial purposes.

Daily Activities

  • Because there are so many types of microbiologists, their daily activities can vary. However, many will develop and plan scientific methods, grow or culture their microscopic organism, employ a variety of methods and instruments to identify strains or variations, create products using the microorganism and evaluate products utilizing clinical trials.


  • Because there are so many different specialties for a microbiologist and the education varies, with some having a bachelor's degree while others have a aster or doctorate degree, the median salary is varied. In general those choosing research in industry will make more than those in the academic arena. A microbiologist with a bachelor's degree and no experience can expect a salary between $20,000 and $40,000. A microbiologist holding a master's degree can expect a salary around $40,000. The median salary for a Ph.D in microbiology is $54,840 but for those with more than five years of experience the salary can exceed $100,000.

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