How to Become a Microbiologist

How to Become a Microbiologist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a 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 a career as a microbiologist:


Those who become microbiologists are strong in academics and are emotionally stable, as this is required to complete short and long-term tasks. They typically have very inquiring minds, an aptitude for science, and are interested in a wide range of natural phenomena.


Microbiologists must also be manually dexterous in order to utilize specialized equipment and conduct experiments. They must be comfortable working in a laboratory setting, and communicating their findings and opinions to others.


If you’re interested in becoming a microbiologist, you’ll need to know how to become one. Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a 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!



Educational Requirements for Becoming a Microbiologist

Completing coursework in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics is a great way to build an educational foundation for your prospective career as a microbiologist, as these courses will give you an understanding of scientific principles, as well as introduce you to laboratory methods, equipment and processes.


Level of education needed based on job responsibility


If you want to become a microbiologist that works in an entry-level research job such as laboratory assistant, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related program.


If you want to work as a senior-level researcher, you will need to have a graduate degree in microbiology.


If you want to direct research, or become a faculty member in a university or college, then you will typically need to complete a doctoral degree program in microbiology.


Please Note: Microbiologists must also complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to keep their skills current stay up to date with advancements in the field.




Microbiologist Job Description

Microbiologists are responsible for studying the physiological, biochemical and genetic aspects, as well as the growth characteristics of micro-organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. They must also study how micro-organisms interact with their environment.



Microbiologist Job Duties

• Develop medical and industrial applications for micro-organisms

• Study human diseases caused by micro-organisms

• Conduct experiments to isolate and grow cultures of specific micro-organisms under controlled conditions

• Identify and classify micro-organisms

• Isolate and genetically modify micro-organisms

• Perform tests on water, food and the environment in order to identify any harmful micro-organisms 



How to Make Microbiologist Career Preparations in High School

Coursework: Taking courses in math, biology, physics and chemistry is a great way to get a head start on becoming a microbiologist. These courses will give you a solid understanding of the scientific principles at work in biology and other areas of science, as well as an introduction to the research process.


Learn what microbiologists do: Speaking with microbiologists and related scientists can give you a great idea of what it’s like to work as a microbiologist. You can also speak with professionals in related occupations, such as veterinarians, doctors, dentists, zookeepers and naturalists in order to gain an idea of what other careers related to microbiology are like.


Choose a university or college to attend: Deciding where to go to college and what to study is a daunting and thorough task. Make it a little easier on yourself by talking to your school’s guidance counselor. They will be able to help you find schools that suit your professional ambitions and interests, as well as provide you with tips on which programs will be of interest to you.


Tip for Success: Speaking with your school’s guidance counselor will also provide with confidence in knowing you have support!



Microbiologist Salary: How Much Do Microbiologists Earn?

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


Microbiologist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group earn an average salary wage of $39.83 per hour.


Microbiologist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary of workers in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group is $56,406 per year. More than 55% of workers in this occupational group earn over $50,000 per year.


Microbiologist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the Microbiologists occupational group earn a median salary of $65,920 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,180 and the top 10 percent earned more than $115,720 per year. 





Personal Characteristics Needed to Become a Microbiologist

Those that become successful 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 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



Where Do Microbiologists Work?

There are many employers within a variety of industries that are interested in employing the skills, knowledge and competencies of microbiologists, including:


• Pharmaceutical companies

• Federal, provincial/state, or municipal government departments

• Colleges and universities

• Public and private research institutes

• Environmental consulting firms

• Biotechnology companies

• Medical research organizations

• Agricultural companies

• Food production research and development organizations

• Resource based companies, such as oil, gas, mining and forestry



Career Advancement for Microbiologists

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 microbiologists advance their level of education. For example, 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, 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. 



Careers Similar to Microbiologist

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




Biotechnology Researcher

Cell Biologist

Molecular Biologist




References: How to Become a Microbiologist

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



Occupations in Alberta:Microbiologist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 3, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Microbiologists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 3, 2020.

Explore Careers: Microbiologist.” (n.d.). ECO Canada website. Retrieved January 3, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming a Microbiologist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Microbiologist can be found on our Biology Scholarships and Biochemistry 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!



Becoming a Microbiologist: Applicable Majors

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


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