How to Become a Food Microbiologist

Career Path Guide

To become a food microbiologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


Food microbiologists tend to have a natural interest in biology, science, food and the well being of others. They are self-motivated individuals who seek solutions to problems, such as how to make our food products and food product ingredients safer.


To become a food microbiologist, you need intellectual and emotional stability, as this will not only help you achieve the academic success you will require, it will help you endure the ups and downs of the career, such as when research results aren’t achieved as planned. You must also be comfortable working in a laboratory setting, and communicating your findings and opinions to others. 


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a food microbiologist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Food Microbiologist

The educational requirements for working in this field depend on your career goals; typically, the higher the level of education you achieve, the more career options that become available to you. Regardless of the level of education you wish to achieve, developing a solid background in microbiology, food microbiology, microbial genetics, virology and statistics is a great way to develop the knowledge necessary to work in food microbiology.


Earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, food microbiology or food science is typically the minimum requirement to get an entry-level job in food microbiology.


If you want to become a food microbiologist that completes your own research projects, directs others in applied research, you will likely need a master’s degree in food microbiology or a closely related field such as virology, microbial genetics or food science. A master’s degree or higher may also allow you to qualify for positions in management or administration.


If you want to teach food microbiology at the university level, you will likely need a doctoral degree in food microbiology or a closely related field, such as those mentioned above. Those with doctoral degrees also work as project leaders, research project coordinators or research directors.





General Job Description

Food microbiologists study food spoilage, food preservation and food-borne pathogens. The primary goal of their research is to understand food-borne diseases in order to prevent them. The research of food microbiologists ensures food products abide by government regulations regarding food health and safety. Some food microbiologists are also involved in establishing food legislation.



Typical Job Duties & Responsibilities

• Research micro-organisms in food in order to prevent food-borne disease and illness

• Study how microbes harm food

• Study food poisoning, spoilage and preservation

• Participate in the establishment and enforcement of food legislation

• Observe how the processing and packaging of food products affects food preservation over time

• Recommend and implement improvements which ensure that manufacturers are complying with food processing and packaging health regulations

• May teach post-secondary courses



Personal Traits Needed to Be Successful

Those that become successful food microbiologists tend to have the following personal characteristics and attributes.


• An inquiring mind and a keen interest in the natural world

• An aptitude for science, statistics and mathematics

• The ability to learn quickly

• Mental and emotional endurance, needed for completing long tasks

• The ability to keep working hard when solutions don’t present themselves easily

• An interest in searching for answers to complex questions

• Manual dexterity (for transferring micro-organisms from one culture medium to another without contaminating samples)

• The ability to pay close attention to detail



Typical Salary Level

The salary level of food microbiologists can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including their level of experience, their level of education, where they work, their specific job responsibilities, and many others.


Food Microbiologist Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary of workers in the Food Scientists and Technologists occupational group, is $64,140 per year.


Salary - Canada: According to the 2016 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group, which includes food scientists, earn an average salary of $84,998 per year. According to WorkBC, those in the same occupational group working in British Columbia have an annual provincial median salary of $74,277. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 22, 2019).





Career Advancement Possibilities

Food microbiologists often receive greater levels of responsibility and independence in their work activities as they acquire more and more experience. These same levels of responsibility and experience can also be achieved when food microbiologists advance their level of education. For example, food microbiologists who earn their Ph.D. are usually those that lead research teams and control the direction and content of projects.


With an acquisition of experience and education, food microbiologists can also pursue careers at the management or executive level. Those who pursue management careers spend much of their time on administrative tasks such as preparing budgets and schedules.



Where Are Food Microbiologist Job Opportunities?

Food microbiologists are primarily hired by organizations that conduct research concerning food spoilage, food preservation and food-borne pathogens. They also work for organizations involved in raising public awareness regarding food safety, and organizations that are involved in food and food product regulation. Food microbiologists are also hired by academic institutions to teach food microbiology and related courses and conduct original research.


Organizations that employ food microbiologists include:


• Food and beverage processing or manufacturing companies

• Food ingredient suppliers

• Colleges and universities

• Private research firms

• Federal and provincial/state government agencies

• International food agencies such as the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO)



Food Microbiologist Jobs

Our job board below has "food microbiologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "food microbiologist", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Food Chemist

Food and Drug Inspector

Food Scientist

Food Technologist





Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a food microbiologist.


Occupations in Alberta: Food Scientist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 25, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Microbiologists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 25, 2019.

Restaurant & Food Service Jobs:Food Microbiologist Job Profile.” Autumn St. John (n.d.) Houston Chronicle website. Retrieved November 25, 2019.

Food Science: Food Safety and Microbiology.” (n.d.) College of Agriculture - Purdue University website. Retrieved November 25, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Food Microbiologist

The scholarships in our system that are relevant for becoming a food microbiologist are all of those that can be found on our Biochemistry Scholarships and Nutrition Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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Food Microbiologist