Become a Microbiology Scientist: Step-by-Step Career Guide
Research the requirements to become a microbiology scientist. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in microbiology.
Microbiology Scientist Requirements
Microbiologists study the characteristics of microscopic organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Most microbiologists work in research labs and conduct fundamental research to increase scientific knowledge. Aspiring microbiology scientists need to earn a bachelor's degree and have laboratory experience. A Ph.D. is required for microbiologists who want to conduct research in universities. The following table contains essential requirements for microbiology scientists:
|Degree Level||Varies based on position; a bachelor's degree is sufficient for many settings, while a doctoral degree is necessary for advanced research work*|
|Licensure/Certification||Voluntary certification is available through various organizations, including the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists and the American Medical Board of Microbiology**|
|Experience||Aspiring microbiologists need lab experience; advanced research positions may require postdoctoral research work*|
|Key Skills||Analytical, interpersonal, mathematical, speaking and writing skills; detail-oriented*|
|Computer Skills||Scientific, query, medical and spreadsheet software***|
|Technical Skills||Must be able to use a variety of specialized equipment such as electron microscopes and gas chromatographs***|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Society for Microbiology, ***O*NET Online.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring microbiology scientists are required to earn at least a bachelor's degree in microbiology or a closely related field. Microbiologists need a solid foundation of the sciences. Microbiology majors take courses such as microbial physiology, virology, chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. Many of these courses include a laboratory component, which is important for prospective microbiologists.
- Complete an internship. College students can work as company or laboratory interns to gain valuable experience within the field.
Step 2: Become Certified
Certification, while not required for employment, could help job seekers enhance their opportunities in the workforce. The American College of Microbiology certifies qualified candidates within the field through its credentialing boards and registries. Microbiologists who have completed a degree program may qualify to earn a Registered Microbiologist credential conferred by the organization's National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM). Earning the credential involves submitting documented educational achievement and work experience, as well as completing a qualifying examination. In order to recertify, individuals have to complete a standard amount of continuing education in a certain time period.
Step 3: Earn a Doctoral Degree in Microbiology
Microbiologists who plan to conduct independent research or work in universities are required to obtain a Ph.D. in Microbiology. Students in these doctoral programs may specialize in a subfield, such as virology. Along with class work, students are required to complete laboratory research and a dissertation.
Step 4: Earn Additional Certification
Doctoral-level microbiologists who seek to direct clinical laboratories may be certified by The American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) in order to fulfill state licensing requirements that may be necessary for medical laboratory management. Additionally, the NRCM offers certification options at the doctoral level. Continuing education is required to qualify for recertification.
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