Science

Microbiologist

Microbiologists study micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae.

Annual Salary

£26,250 to £99,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

40

3%
Future employment

There will be 3% more Microbiologist jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

You could work in an area like:

  • healthcare - as a clinical microbiologist, helping to prevent the spread of infection
  • research and development for the pharmaceutical and food industries
  • agriculture
  • education
  • biotechnology industries

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 may also present research findings, supervise the work of support staff or carry out administrative tasks. 

If you work as a researcher and lecturer in a university or teaching hospital, you might also be involved in tutoring, mentoring and supervising students.

University

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), including English, maths and a science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, including a biological science for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

Apprenticeship

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 qualifications, for a higher or a degree apprenticeship

Other Routes

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.

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.


£26,250 to £99,000

Starter salary: £26,250 to £35,250

Experienced salary: £41,250

These figures are a guide.

40

You’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may work on-call.

Most of your work will take place in a laboratory.

You’ll usually wear protective clothing like gloves, a laboratory coat and safety glasses to help prevent contamination.

You may need to travel to meetings and conferences.

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. 

The Microbiology Society and the Society for Applied Microbiology offer grants to support students looking for work experience. 

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You’ll need:

  • 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
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