Career Options for MSc Microbiology Professionals in the US

Career Options for MSc Microbiology Professionals – Microbiologists work in several areas. Many do basic research to increase knowledge about the life processes common to microbes. Their work helps to answer basic questions such as those about the use of food and oxygen in cells. Other microbiologists are employed in medicine. Medical microbiologists study the relationship between microorganisms and disease. They isolate and identify disease-producing organisms and analyse their distribution.

They also explore the ways that the plants enter the bodies of humans and animals, establish themselves, and cause disease. Immunologists, for example, examine the body’s defensive responses to microorganisms. Other medical microbiologists study the effects of antibiotics on bacteria. Some are concerned with the role of viruses in cancer. Others help to develop new ways to treat and prevent disease.

Microbiologists are also employed in the related field of public health. They work to combat problems such as outbreaks of epidemics, food poisoning, and the pollution of air and water. For example, public health microbiologists test blood samples sent in by physicians to see whether patients have an infectious disease. They also test drinking water, milk supplies, and other substances that can affect the health of the general public.

Other fields in which microbiologists work include agriculture, marine microbiology, and industry. Agricultural microbiologists study the microorganisms found in soil and their effects on plant growth. Marine microbiologists seek ways to control the growth of harmful bacteria in oceans and rivers. Industrial microbiologists work in a variety of industries, including food processing, chemicals, and drugs. They may operate to control the activities of microorganisms in such processes as the tanning of leather and the fermentation of wine.


You generally need a doctoral degree to become a microbiologist. You can major in microbiology or any of the other biological sciences as an undergraduate. Although those who have bachelor’s degrees can find jobs in the field, they are technicians, and their opportunities for advancement are limited. They are usually assigned such tasks as doing diagnostic or quality control testing in laboratories or industry.

Those who have earned master’s degrees in microbiology or related fields such as bacteriology are qualified for many jobs in industry, teaching, and applied research. You need a doctoral degree to obtain most teaching and research positions in universities or to get a job as an administrator. It generally takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and another one or two years to earn a master’s degree. You need to study additional three or four years to receive a doctoral degree. Some microbiologists have earned the degree of doctor of medicine (M.D.) in addition to a doctoral degree (PhD).

Getting The Job

Your college instructors or placement office may be able to help you find a job in the field of microbiology. Some companies send recruiters to college job fairs. You may find job openings in newspaper classifieds, job banks on the Internet, or professional journals. You can also apply directly to colleges and universities, medical centres, private firms, and government agencies that hire microbiologists. You may need to pass a civil service examination to get a government job.

Advancement Possibilities

There are many possible avenues of advancement for microbiologists, especially for those with a doctoral degree. Microbiologists can become directors of research in medical centres, private firms, or government agencies. Those who hold a teaching and research position in a university can advance to the rank of full professor. They can also make significant discoveries in their research and gain the recognition of other microbiologists. Many scientists consider this to be the highest form of advancement.

Earnings and Benefits

The profits of microbiologists vary widely depending on their education and experience, the location, and the kind of job. The median annual salary of microbiologists was $54,840 in 2004. In 2005 those working for the federal government earned an average of $80,798 per year. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

More Information

American Institute of Biological Sciences

1444 I St. NW, Ste. 200
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 628-1500

American Society for Microbiology

1752 N St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 737-3600

image source: kkolosov

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