With Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the world news right now, this week we are looking at the role of a Microbiologist.
Microbiologists study micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae.
Average salary (a year)
£27,146 Starter to £105,042 Experienced
How to become a microbiologist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
You could do a degree in a subject like microbiology, biology or biological science.
Some employers may ask for a relevant postgraduate qualification and work experience.
You may be able to do an integrated postgraduate master’s qualification like a MBiolSci, MBiol or MSci. These courses include independent research and can lead onto further postgraduate study for a PhD.
You’ll usually need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
- 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including biology for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You may be able to start by doing a laboratory scientist higher or degree apprenticeship.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
You may find it possible to get into microbiology by working your way up from a laboratory technician job. You would usually study part-time for a relevant science degree or degree apprenticeship while you work.
Volunteering and experience
You could improve your career prospects if you get some work experience. This could be with the NHS, as part of a sandwich degree course or through a placement with a company during the holidays. Your university can advise you on voluntary opportunities.
You can get more advice about working in microbiology from the Microbiology Society and Health Careers.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- knowledge of biology
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- thinking and reasoning skills
- maths knowledge
- science skills
- excellent verbal communication skills
- analytical thinking skills
- excellent written communication skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
What you’ll do
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 might also:
- present research findings
- supervise the work of support staff
- carry out administrative tasks
You could work at a university or in a laboratory.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
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.
A microbiologist working for Britvic tells us about her work:
Should I be a microbiologist?? Take this one minute quiz: