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Microbiologist Careers

Microbiologists are scientists investigating the mysteries of microorganisms and the way they affect our lives. They are professional researchers who create reports on their findings and publish them in academic papers.

Everything related to the growth and development of bacteria, algae, and fungi will be your business as a microbiologist. You will study the relationship between organisms and diseases in humans, plants, and animals. With microscopes glued to your eyes, you will strive to recognize and identify microorganisms in water, food, and other environments.

Passionate curiosity is what probably lies at the heart of a successful researcher, topped up with a generous amount of technical and analytical skills.

As a microbiologist, you will most likely work in a lab along with a team of researchers, probing into possible ways of treating and preventing harmful illnesses.

What Does a Microbiologist Do

Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They try to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments.


Microbiologists typically do the following:

  • Plan and conduct complex research projects, such as improving sterilization procedures or developing new drugs to combat infectious diseases
  • Perform laboratory services that are used in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses
  • 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 study
  • Identify and classify microorganisms found in specimens collected from humans, plants, animals, or the environment
  • Monitor the effect of microorganisms on plants, animals, other microorganisms, or the environment
  • Keep up with current knowledge by reviewing the findings of other researchers and by attending conferences
  • Prepare technical reports, publish research papers, and make recommendations based on their research findings
  • Present research findings to scientists, nonscientist executives, engineers, other colleagues, and the public

Many microbiologists work in research and development conducting basic research or applied research. The aim of basic research is to increase scientific knowledge. An example is growing strains of bacteria in various conditions to learn how they react to those conditions. Other microbiologists conduct applied research and develop new products to solve particular problems. For example, microbiologists may develop genetically engineered crops, better biofuels, or new vaccines.

Microbiologists use computers and a wide variety of sophisticated laboratory instruments to do their experiments. Electron microscopes are used to study bacteria, and advanced computer software is used to analyze the growth of microorganisms found in samples.

It is increasingly common for microbiologists to work on teams with technicians and scientists in other fields, because many scientific research projects involve multiple disciplines. Microbiologists may work with medical scientists or biochemists while researching new drugs, or they may work in medical diagnostic laboratories alongside physicians and nurses to help prevent, treat, and cure diseases. For more information, see the profiles on biochemists and biophysicists, physicians and surgeons, and registered nurses.

The following are examples of types of microbiologists:

Bacteriologists study the growth, development, and other properties of bacteria, including the positive and negative effects that bacteria have on plants, animals, and humans.

Clinical microbiologists perform a wide range of clinical laboratory tests on specimens collected from plants, humans, and animals to aid in detection of disease. Clinical and medical microbiologists whose work involves directly researching human health may be classified as medical scientists.

Environmental microbiologists study the ways in which microorganisms interact with the environment. They may study the use of microbes to clean up areas contaminated by heavy metals or study how microbes could aid crop growth.

Industrial microbiologists study and solve problems related to industrial production processes. They may examine microbial growth found in the pipes of a chemical factory, monitor the impact industrial waste has on the local ecosystem, or oversee the microbial activities used in cheese production to ensure quality.

Mycologists study the properties of fungi such as yeast and mold, as well as the ways fungi can be used (for example, in food or the environment) to benefit society.

Parasitologists study the life cycle of parasites, the parasite-host relationship, and how parasites adapt to different environments. They may investigate the outbreak and control of parasitic diseases such as malaria.

Public health microbiologists examine specimens in order to track, control, and prevent communicable diseases and other health hazards. They typically provide laboratory services for local health departments and community health programs.

Virologists study the structure, development, and other properties of viruses and any effects viruses have on infected organisms.

Many people with a microbiology background become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.

How To Become a Microbiologist

A bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a closely related field is needed for entry-level microbiologist jobs. A Ph.D. is needed to carry out independent research and to work in universities.


Microbiologists need at least a bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a closely related field such as biochemistry or cell biology. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in biological sciences, including microbiology.

Most microbiology majors take core courses in microbial genetics and microbial physiology and elective classes such as environmental microbiology and virology. Students also must take classes in other sciences, such as biochemistry, chemistry, and physics, because it is important for microbiologists to have a broad understanding of the sciences. Courses in statistics, mathematics, and computer science are important for microbiologists because they must be able to do complex data analysis.

It is important for prospective microbiologists to have laboratory experience before entering the workforce. Most undergraduate microbiology programs include a mandatory laboratory requirement, but additional laboratory coursework is recommended. Students also can gain valuable laboratory experience through internships with prospective employers such as drug manufacturers.

Microbiologists typically need a Ph.D. to carry out independent research and work in colleges and universities. Graduate students studying microbiology commonly specialize in a subfield such as bacteriology or immunology. Ph.D. programs usually include class work, laboratory research, and completing a thesis or dissertation.


Many microbiology Ph.D. holders begin their careers in temporary postdoctoral research positions. During their postdoctoral appointment, they work with experienced scientists as they continue to learn about their specialties and develop a broader understanding of related areas of research.

Postdoctoral positions typically offer the opportunity to publish research findings. A solid record of published research is essential to getting a permanent college or university faculty position.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Microbiologists should be able to effectively communicate their research processes and findings so that knowledge may be applied correctly.

Detail oriented. Microbiologists must be able to conduct scientific experiments and analyses with accuracy and precision.

Interpersonal skills. Microbiologists typically work on research teams and thus must work well with others toward a common goal. Many also lead research teams and must be able to motivate and direct other team members.

Logical-thinking skills. Microbiologists draw conclusions from experimental results through sound reasoning and judgment.

Math skills. Microbiologists regularly use complex mathematical equations and formulas in their work. Therefore, they need a broad understanding of mathematics, including calculus and statistics.

Observation skills. Microbiologists must constantly monitor their experiments. They need to keep a complete, accurate record of their work, noting conditions, procedures, and results.

Perseverance. Microbiological research involves substantial trial and error, and microbiologists must not become discouraged in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Microbiologists use scientific experiments and analysis to find solutions to complex scientific problems.

Time-management skills. Microbiologists usually need to meet deadlines when conducting research and laboratory tests. They must be able to manage time and prioritize tasks efficiently while maintaining their quality of work.


Microbiologists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they gain experience. They also gain greater responsibility through certification and higher education. Ph.D. microbiologists usually lead research teams and control the direction and content of projects.

Some microbiologists move into managerial positions, often as natural sciences managers. Those who pursue management careers spend much of their time on administrative tasks such as preparing budgets and schedules.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certifications are available for clinical microbiologists and for those who specialize in the fields of food safety and quality and pharmaceuticals and medical devices. They may help workers gain employment in the occupation or advance to new positions of responsibility. Certifications are not mandatory for the majority of work done by microbiologists.

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Average Salary for a Microbiologist

Microbiologists in America make an average salary of $58,817 per year or $28 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $79,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $43,000 per year.
Average Salary

Best Paying Cities

Average Salarydesc
Fremont, CA
Salary Range69k - 104k$85k$85,172
Tucson, AZ
Salary Range56k - 86k$70k$69,751
Boston, MA
Salary Range54k - 80k$66k$66,138
Bethesda, MD
Salary Range51k - 79k$64k$64,111
Duluth, GA
Salary Range50k - 79k$63k$63,280
Fargo, ND
Salary Range49k - 77k$62k$62,431

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State of Indiana
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University of Wisconsin Madison
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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
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Microbiologist Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Microbiologist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Microbiologist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Microbiologist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Microbiologist Demographics



57.5 %


37.8 %


4.7 %



72.1 %


13.7 %

Hispanic or Latino

8.0 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


55.7 %


10.4 %


3.8 %
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Microbiologist Education



75.5 %


12.0 %


4.7 %

Top Colleges for Microbiologists

1. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

2. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Public

In-State Tuition

3. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition

4. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

5. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Public

In-State Tuition

6. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

7. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA • Public

In-State Tuition

8. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN • Public

In-State Tuition

9. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition

10. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
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Top Skills For a Microbiologist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 9.2% of microbiologists listed lab equipment on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and technical skills are important as well.

  • Lab Equipment, 9.2%
  • Microbiology, 7.8%
  • Environmental Monitoring, 6.4%
  • Raw Materials, 6.3%
  • Test Methods, 5.7%
  • Other Skills, 64.6%
  • See All Microbiologist Skills

Best States For a Microbiologist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a microbiologist. The best states for people in this position are California, Virginia, Arizona, and Oregon. Microbiologists make the most in California with an average salary of $79,667. Whereas in Virginia and Arizona, they would average $72,181 and $71,949, respectively. While microbiologists would only make an average of $71,930 in Oregon, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Microbiologist Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Oregon

Total Microbiologist Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Massachusetts

Total Microbiologist Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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How Do Microbiologist Rate Their Jobs?

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Biodegradation studies of fungi on chlorpyrifos January 2020


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Top Microbiologist Employers

1. Kelly Services
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2. Food and Drug Administration
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3. United States Department of Agriculture
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4. Johnson & Johnson
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5. Pfizer
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6. Nestlé
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