Microbiologist Careers

How to become a Microbiologist

What does a Microbiologist do?

Microbiology is concerned with the study of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi and algae. Microbiologists work alongside other scientists specialising in work with one of these groups. Most work takes place in laboratories and involves operating laboratory equipment, much of which is computerised. Tasks revolve around conducting experiments, making observations, and presenting the results. Microbiologists can work in a range of areas such as medicine, industry, education and the environment.

Microbiologists' activities include:

  • monitoring, identifying and helping to control infectious diseases
  • using molecular biology techniques to develop and test new medicines and treatments for disease
  • investigating the potential uses of microorganisms to produce antibodies, steroids, vaccines, hormones and other healthcare products
  • developing the use of microorganisms and enzymes in food production, crop protection and soil fertility
  • monitoring and checking manufacturing processes to make sure the products are safe
  • controlling pollution using microorganisms which can break down toxic substances
  • overseeing the safe disposal of waste.
Microbiologists will often have to supervise the work of support staff and carry out administrative work. Those working in universities or teaching hospitals will be involved in teaching and supervising students.

What's the working environment like working as a Microbiologist?

Most microbiologists work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with shifts or on-call duties possible in some jobs.

Protective clothing is worn to prevent contamination. The work may involve travel to scientific meetings and conferences.

What does it take to become a Microbiologist?

To be a microbiologist, you should:

  • have an enquiring mind and be able to think clearly and logically
  • be good at problem-solving
  • be able to work accurately and pay attention to detail
  • be able to work in, or lead, a team of professionals
  • have excellent spoken and written communication skills
  • keep up with advances in your field by reading relevant scientific literature
  • be numerate, with knowledge of statistics and relevant data-handling computer packages.

Microbiologist Career Opportunities

Microbiologists work for a wide range of employers. They undertake research and development work, scientific analysis and investigation for hospitals, universities or the Public Health Laboratory Service, and commercial work in medical and technical writing, and in information science. Other opportunities exist in education and the media, working for schools and colleges, publishers, broadcasters and museums.

Some move into administration work with government departments or privatised agencies such as the Food Standards Agency, the Environment Agency or the Health and Safety Executive.

Relocation may be necessary for career progression.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Microbiologist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

NHS Careers
PO Box 376
BS99 3EY
Tel: 0845 606 0655

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682

Society for General Microbiology (SGM)
Marlborough House
Basingstoke Road
Spencers Wood

Society for Applied Biology (SFAM)

The Health Professions Council (HPC)

Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS)

Facts and Stats:

  • Dutch researchers have genetically altered plants so that bees produce foreign proteins in their nectar. They hope that the bees will create honey containing a variety of drugs or vaccines.

  • A Californian Company has just launched a motorised computer mouse that can give web surfers the sensation of texture - or other physical attributes - of items pictured on the internet.

  • A commercial satellite capable of distinguishing objects the size of a tea tray will soon be launched from the United States. The Ikonos-1 is the most powerful commercial imaging satellite yet built. Its parabolic lens will be able to resolve objects 80cm (32in) in length anywhere on Earth.

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