Are you considering a microbiology degree, or recently graduated with one? A microbiology degree has many options. We have a list of some of the best!
Microbiology is a field of science that primarily deals with the study and research of microbes. Due to the nature of the discipline, microbiology tends to overlap with other branches of science. When studying microbiology you can expect to study chemistry (both organic and inorganic), biology, genetics and lab research. Because microbes are everywhere, microbiology majors can be employed in many industries including biomedical, agricultural, genetics and recently even energy/alternative fuels.
Roughly 30 per cent of microbiology graduates choose not to work in industry and instead continue their studies according to prospects. The employment rate for microbiology graduates is an amazing 49 per cent (again according to prospect.ac.uk). So let’s take a look at some of the potential career options a Microbiologist has after graduation.
Probably the most obvious post-graduation career choice for someone that is in the field of microbiology is a biomedical scientist, which in itself is a vast discipline. The profession is an auxiliary to the medical field, helping physicians and medical professionals diagnose various diseases. The way they do this is by testing tissue cultures taken from patients, against potential pathogens. There are further subsets of biomedical science with specialisations in infection sciences, blood sciences and cellular sciences. Each specialisation even has its own subsets as follows:
- Identifying pathogenic microorganisms that cause illness and the potential microorganisms that can be used to combat them.
- Identifying pathogens of a viral nature and researching ways that they can be combated.
- Researching how the immune system works when combating microorganisms.
- Clinical/Diagnostic chemistry deals with the analysis of blood and body fluids for toxins.
- Transfusion scientist deal with blood chemistry, compatibility during transfusion and blood storage.
- Haematologists deal with the blood-related illnesses.
- Histopathologists research and analyse tissue samples that have been infected.
- Cytologists generally are known to be the scientist that analyse cell samples taken during pap smears but can perform other cell culture analysis when necessary.
- Reproductive scientists assist in vitro fertilisation but also assess and analyse potential fertility issues.
A microbiology graduate can expect an initial salary between £21.692 - £28.180 without a specialisation and £26.041 - £34.876 with a specialisation. A biomedical scientist with senior level experience can earn up to £31.072 - £47.559.
Work/life balance is relatively positive compared to other medical professionals, seldom will a microbiological scientist be forced to work shifts, although working on national holidays is sometimes necessary.
Another career path within the medical field is that of a clinical research associate. The bulk of the work has to do with medical trials, including developing protocols regarding how they are conducted, presenting results to the appropriate authorities, assessing the efficacy of drug trials and even legal matters pertaining to the trials and their approval.
Beyond dealing with the legal aspects of clinical trials, you may also serve as a liaison between the technically adept and the technically deficient, facilitating communication between doctors, consultants, lawyers and the marketing team of the pharmaceutical company conducting the drug trails. A clinical research associate can also be tasked with filling out reports and documenting the results of the clinical trials they are working on.
The salary is very similar to a biomedical scientist with an entry level position earning between £22.000 to £28.000 or £30.000 if it is a graduate position. Advanced career clinical research associates though make substantially more than their biomedical counterparts, with mid-career clinical research associates making between £33.000 - £40.000 and senior experience associates making £60.000 per annum.
Food Technology Researcher/Scientist
Also known as food technologists, these scientists perform a very important role in supervising food production. Their job includes ensuring that the food industry upholds the standards of safety and quality. They also are involved in the research and development of certain foods including rapidly prepared items (microwavable dinners), mass produced items and food flavours/colourings. They may also be involved in creating industrial processes or machinery to guarantee the consistency of texture, colour and flavour of a mass produced food item.
This specific job has applicability in both the public, private, retail and manufacturing sector. Although there are many jobs in this constantly growing industry, it is also extremely competitive due to the very generous salaries it offers, with starting salaries between £20.000 to £26.000, mid-career salaries reaching £45.000 and senior experience salaries being £65.000. Most of these jobs further offer handsome benefits packages and performance based bonuses.
Pharmacology is another vast field of science that is separated into smaller more specific specialisations. Some are specific to a system of the human body where other specialise in pharmaceuticals for animals. Some of the fields include:
- Psychopharmacology – which deals with pharmaceutical solutions for individuals that have psychological diseases.
- In Vivo pharmacology – a field of study that specialises in the study of the effect of drugs on complex living organisms such as humans, animals and to lesser extent plants.
- Cardiovascular pharmacology – this field deals exclusively with medications that directly affect the cardiovascular system.
- Veterinary pharmacology – deals with the effect of pharmaceuticals on animals.
You can expect that the job will be mainly lab-based, with a large research and testing component. The main responsibilities of the role will revolve around the effects of chemical compounds on biological organisms and more specifically on systems of larger biological organisms. Inevitably due to nature of the job and dealing with pharmaceuticals, as you mature in your role you will also have to deal with bureaucracy regarding approval of both the drugs and the trials needed to test them. Expected earnings of a pharmacology scientist are £25.000 - £40.000 and a whopping £80.000 when the scientist gains senior level experience.
This role is similar to that of a biomedical scientist but with a much more active role in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients. You will work closely with patients under the supervision of a doctor – making diagnosis, analysing results and administering treatments. It is both a flexible and dynamic role and involves a lot of interaction with people. So if you enjoy all of these things but do not want to dedicate multiple years to becoming a doctor, this career might be a good alternative.
The starting salary is higher than most entry level positions at £30,000 - £31,000, with mid-career professionals seeing earnings of £35,000. Unfortunately, the profession doesn’t make as much as the other positions on this list with senior experience physician associates making only £48,034.
If you enjoy a nice cold pint after work, you might like this job. Since one of the first steps in making the popular amber elixir involves using microscopic organisms (yeast) to ferment vats of grain in water, a Microbiology degree can be a great asset (but not absolutely necessary). The role of the Technical Brewer doesn’t just involve overseeing the fermentation process, though, but all the steps leading to the final product that has been whetting whistles for 3900 years.
A technical brewer will inspect and ensure the quality of the raw materials, including grain, water (which is an extremely significant part of the process) and any additives necessary to enhance the taste or colour of the beer. A technical brewer’s responsibilities may also include maintaining machinery and equipment necessary for the production of the beer, to ensure the consistency and standard of the final product.
With a few years of experience, a technical brewer may also be able to concoct their own intoxicating brews, using both science and taste. The salary for a technical brewer is a bit lower that most items on this list, but this fact might be buffered by the fact that it could include free samples. An entry level salary can range between £18.000 to £25.000, a mid-level position £25.000-£33.000 and a senior level position £40.000.
Like I mentioned earlier in the article a microbiology degree, is a widely applicable and employable degree. Beyond the more immediate employment opportunities mentioned above, there are field and industries a microbiologist can work in that are proximal to their skill set but do not necessarily require a microbiology degree. Some of these professions are:
- Ecology - This job usually requires extensive field work as well as lab work which might be a benefit if you enjoy working outdoors. Within the larger umbrella of the profession there exist smaller subsets such as freshwater ecology, marine ecology, terrestrial ecology, the ecology of fauna and ecology of flora. This further allows people who enter ecology to pursue a specific field which they are passionate or have special interest in.
- Forensic Scientist- Forensic scientists use their scientific knowledge to gather impartial data that can assist investigators during a criminal investigation or the judicial system in making a decision.
- Science Writer - as the title implies a science writer researches, edits and writes scientific news, articles and publications. Although outside the realm of traditional lab sciences, a scientific writer needs to possess a comprehensive understanding of complex scientific concepts and the ability to express them in writing to a varied audience.
- Water Quality Scientist - water quality scientists use lab and field work to gather data regarding the quality of water, it be drinking or surface and ground water. A water quality scientist may also be charged with overseeing and inspecting pipelines and water distribution facilities to uphold safety and quality standards.
As you have seen microbiology is a diverse and extremely interesting field of study. If you have a propensity for chemistry, mathematics and biology, then microbiology might be the perfect field of study for you.
If you are currently a microbiologist or working in one of the professions on this list, please feel free to let us know about your experience in the comment section below.