Clinical Microbiologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Clinical microbiologists analyze blood, tissue and other samples to find the disease-causing organisms present in people, animals and foods. These professionals may also help physicians diagnose and control the spread of infections.
Job Description for a Clinical Microbiologist
Clinical microbiology is the science of identifying and isolating infectious disease-causing organisms. Accordingly, clinical microbiologists conduct examinations on specimens collected from patients and animals for bacterial, viral, protozoan and fungal infections. This may include studying how diseases spread and using research findings to help control the spread of infections.
Clinical microbiologists work in laboratories and may be required to participate in rotating night and weekend shifts. They use tools like Petri dishes, test tubes, reagents and culture media. Optical and electron microscopes, centrifuges and gas chromatographs are also used. In some cases, they risk exposure to diseases, illnesses, noxious fumes, high-pressure laboratory systems and radiation.
Duties of a Clinical Microbiologist
Clinical microbiologist duties include assisting physicians in diagnosing illnesses and selecting treatments. As such, clinical microbiologists may be responsible for producing viral vaccines and other substances for medical analyses. Additionally, these professionals may culture organisms and test food samples for potential food poisoning agents.
Salary and Employment Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes clinical microbiologists within the larger group of microbiologists when reporting salary and employment growth predictions. The BLS expected all microbiologists to see employment grow by 13% from 2010 until 2020. In May 2012, the BLS reported that microbiologists had a median annual income of $66,260.
Requirements for a Clinical Microbiologist
Entry-level clinical microbiologists generally need at least a bachelor's degree in microbiology, biology, chemistry or related field. Equivalent education and experience may be an acceptable alternative. Bachelor's degree programs in these subjects typically cover cell physiology and reproduction. Coursework in immunology and virology may also be required.
Clinical microbiologists must understand how to conduct laboratory tests and prepare biological products. Understanding the causes of diseases enables them to accurately assist in diagnosis and treatment. They also need to understand laws, regulations and standards related to the medical industry.
According to the BLS, some states may license clinical microbiologists (www.bls.gov). Requirements differ based on state and specialty; however, most include completing a bachelor's degree program and passing a state licensing examination.
Clinical microbiologists looking to show their expertise in the field may consider voluntary certifications offered by nationally recognized organizations, such as the American College of Microbiology (www.microbiologycert.org). Eligibility requirements generally include at least a bachelor's degree in a closely related field and work experience. Qualifying candidates may take certification exams to earn their credentials. Once certified, these professionals typically must complete continuing education credits to maintain their status.
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