Microbiologists are experts in the physiology and classification of microscopic organisms such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. They work in a range of fields including academia, government and industries such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture. Microbiologists must earn degrees that require intensive science courses such as cellular and molecular biology, along with research and lab work. Some jobs require an advanced degree.
High School Teacher
Microbiologists with an undergraduate degree can use their knowledge to become general science teachers at the elementary and middle school level and biology teachers in high schools. Science teachers help students understand abstract science concepts, solve problems and conduct basic experiments. Teachers may also be involved in activities such as organizing and judging science fairs, mentoring students and leading extracurricular activities like science clubs and field trips. Some states may require public school teachers to earn certification after they are hired. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupational outlook for teachers is growing about as fast as average for all U.S. jobs until 2018 and science teachers continue to be in high demand.
Clinical Laboratory Technician
University research centers, corporations and government agencies hire clinical laboratory technicians to perform complex scientific testing. Microbiologists learn how to operate sophisticated lab equipment as part of their education. This training helps them in the lab technician role to analyze and examine cells and perform all types of scientific tests involving biology, chemistry, hematology, immunology and other areas. They also prepare cultures of tissue and blood for analysis and evaluate results. Jobs for lab technicians are expected to grow faster than average until 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In addition to lab technician jobs in government science agencies, microbiologists can find other types of employment at the federal, state and local government level. The military and law enforcement hire microbiologists to help them study and identify bioterrorism. Waste and water management agencies need microbiologists to help them protect the environment and the water supply from bacteria, viruses and other elements. Other federal agencies that hire microbiologists for research include the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA.
To teach microbiology at the college level and obtain a tenure-track job, you must earn a Ph.D. You may be able to teach at some community colleges with just a master’s degree, but a job at a four-year college requires a doctorate, plus research experience and publication in science journals. Microbiologists teach basic courses for undergraduates and advanced topics for upperclassmen and graduate students, provide mentoring for students, conduct research in their specialties for publication and present their work at conferences. Dental, medical and veterinary schools also hire microbiologists to teach basic and advanced topics related to bacteria, fungi and viruses.