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Microbiologist

Microbiologists study micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £26,250 to £99,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need a degree in a subject like microbiology, biology, or another biological science with a strong focus on microbiology. 

Some employers may want a relevant postgraduate qualification and some work experience. You may be able to get work experience through a work placement as part of a sandwich degree course, or by arranging work experience with companies. 

The Microbiology Society and the Society for Applied Microbiology offer grants to support students looking for work experience. 

You could also get into microbiology by starting as a laboratory technician and studying part-time for a relevant degree.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to think logically
  • good problem-solving skills
  • high levels of accuracy and good attention to detail
  • excellent spoken and written communication skills
  • the ability to work with statistics and relevant computer packages

3. What you'll do

You could work in an area like:

  • healthcare - as a clinical microbiologist, helping to prevent the spread of infection
  • research and development for the pharmaceutical and food industries
  • agriculture
  • education
  • biotechnology industries

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • monitoring, identifying and helping to control infectious diseases
  • using molecular biology techniques to develop and test new medicines and treatments
  • investigating how microorganisms produce antibodies, vaccines, hormones and other biotechnology products
  • assessing the use of microbes in food production, crop protection and soil fertility
  • monitoring the quality and safety of manufactured food and medical products
  • using microorganisms to control pollution and dispose of waste safely
You may also present research findings, supervise the work of support staff or carry out administrative tasks. 

If you work as a researcher and lecturer in a university or teaching hospital, you might also be involved in tutoring, mentoring and supervising students.

4. Salary

Starter: £26,250 to £35,250

Experienced: £41,250

Highly Experienced: £55,000 to £99,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may work on-call.

Most of your work will take place in a laboratory.

You’ll usually wear protective clothing like gloves, a laboratory coat and safety glasses to help prevent contamination.

You may need to travel to meetings and conferences. 

6. Career path and progression

You could move into lab management, research or teaching. 

In the NHS you could progress to specialist, team manager and consultant. 

You could also offer consultancy services in areas like pharmaceutical sales, publishing and law. 
 

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Last updated: 05 May 2017