The world around us is filled with microbes, tiny microorganisms that not only cause diseases, blights, and other health or economic concerns but also serve an important role in the life cycle that exists on our planet. The microbiologist that studies these microorganisms, therefore, is an important cog in the wheel that churns out medicines, develops research protocols, and prepares the next generation of scientists to tackle the problems that the future holds, whatever they may be. It is not surprising, therefore, that the microbiologist salary can be quite variable, reflecting the many hats that the microbiologist wears.
The microbiologist can function in various settings, making this career an attractive choice for men and women who are not certain whether they want to spend their entire working wearing a lab coat and working in a lab.
Microbiologists can work in educational institutions, research laboratories, government institutes, and even at startups, to name just a few work sites. This means that stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the microbiologist salary are a good gauge of salary ranges, but that a working microbiologist could potentially earn more.
JOB OUTLOOK AND DUTIES
Few career professionals can say that they have no idea what they will encounter in the normal course of their job from one day to the next. The microbiologist is one of the chosen few, with each day holding new opportunities to gain knowledge or to develop strategies that can play a critical role in advancing health and wellness not only for human beings but for other living things living on planet earth.
Life behind the microscope yields the promise for a new discovery. With that said, the normal duties of a typical microbiologist may not always be as exciting as others.
The role of the microbiologist is to study microorganisms, and as there are so many different forms of life that fall under the category of microorganism, the microbiologist has a wide range of potential fields that he or she can branch into.
The following is a short list of some of the organisms that qualify as microorganisms:
This basically means that bacteriologists and virologists are both professionals that fall under the hat of the microbiologist, and naturally, after these professionals complete their general microbiology education, which we will discuss in the next section, they further specialize in the type of microorganism that is of interest to them.
This highly specialized nature of the microbiology field provides some measure of job security to the microbiologist while also giving them the potential to use their knowledge outside the government or education sector by working for a pharmaceutical company or at a tech startup.
Though it is possible for a microbiologist to operate independently in a lab or in the educational setting, it has become increasingly common for microbiologists to work in teams with other microbiologists, or with other researchers from related fields. Some of these related fields include molecular biologists and chemists, though microbiologists can also work with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers.
Considering the many organisms that microbiologists study, it is exhausting listing all the fields that fall under the microbiology umbrella, but some better-known fields are listed below:
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Because the scope of study of the microbiologist is so wide, and the impact of the organisms that microbiologists study is also very wide, there is naturally a range not only in the microbiologist salary but in the duties that students considering a career in microbiology can one day expect.
Microbiologists work in a number of different settings, including research and development, drug development (pharmaceutical industry), education at colleges and universities, and government jobs, including the state and the federal government. Federal government jobs pay on the higher end of the spectrum for microbiologists, making upwards of $100,000 a year, and we will a more in-depth look at salaries later on in this survey of the work of the microbiologist.
We have established that the duties of the microbiologist can be wide, as can the work site, and we have listed some of the microbiologists varied duties below:
Although naturally, these duties of microbiologists often require them to work in teams with other researchers and scientists, many microbiologists run their own labs or otherwise have some ability to function independently. The microbiology field is thriving, which is reflected in the microbiologist salary. Job growth in this field is expected to grow about 8% in the next 10 years, according to recent stats, which is about what is expected across all fields in the United States. Opportunities in this industry and microbiologist salary will be impacted by education level, which will be discussed in the next section.
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The basic requirement for a career in microbiology is a bachelor’s degree, but many practitioners in the field go on to pursue higher degrees, including master’s or doctoral degrees (Ph.D.). Certain avenues in the field of microbiology will require a doctoral degree, and many of the higher earning professionals, or those who direct their own laboratories, will have PhDs. University teaching jobs also generally require doctoral degrees.
Similar to other biological sciences disciplines, microbiologists generally do not require any special certifications or licenses to gain work in the field. This is different from many healthcare fields where practitioners usually are required to be certified or license with a state agency in order to work.
Certain fields within microbiology, like clinical microbiology, do have special certifications, but obtaining certifications is not commonplace in microbiology as a general rule. That being said, certifications, when available, can improve job prospects, open new doors for established professionals, or even have a slight impact on the microbiologist salary.
As a further note to the educational aspect of a career in microbiology, because work in this career can be very specialized, microbiologists may obtain more advanced training in research laboratories, postdoctoral programs, or other programs in order to become better educated in their field of interest.
There is quite a bit of variation in the salary of microbiologists, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) with some microbiologists making between $30,000 and $40,000, while others are making well into the six-figure range. Salaries are impacted primarily by the type of employer the microbiologist works for, with federal government workers tending to make more than researchers, teachers, and workers in the pharmaceutical industry, though some private practice workers and faculty members can potentially make more than the normal range for their respective areas.
According to the BLS, the median wage for microbiologists was $66,850, with the middle 80% of workers falling between $39,480 and $128,900. The highest 10% in the microbiology industry earned more than $128,900 according to the bureau.
With many areas of specialty and a high potential salary, the microbiology field represents an attractive and potentially lucrative choice for those men and women interested in pursuing a career in science. Although many of the higher earning jobs may require advanced degrees or certifications, obtaining these qualifications may also provide the microbiologist with greater job security and more options for employment.
The microbiologist plays a critical role in mounting a response to disease outbreaks and other health crises, and this important function is reflected in the often high microbiologist salary.
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