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Biologist, Microbiologist
Summary Job Description Education Skills, Abilities and Interests More Information
Job Description

Job CategoryLife, Physical, & Social Science

Job DescriptionMicrobiologists study the growth, structure, development, and general characteristics of bacteria and other microorganisms. They examine physiological, morphological, and cultural characteristics, using microscopes, to identify microorganisms. They may isolate and make cultures of bacteria or other microorganisms in prescribed media, controlling moisture, aeration, temperature, and nutrition; conduct chemical analyses of substances, such as acids, alcohols, and enzymes; and research the use of bacteria and microorganisms to develop vitamins, antibiotics, amino acids, grain alcohol, sugars, and polymers.

Microbiologist may specialize in one of several areas: virology (the study of viruses); immunology (the study of mechanisms that fight infections); or bioinformatics (the use of computers to handle or characterize biological information, usually at the molecular level). Many microbiologists use biotechnology to advance knowledge of cell reproduction and human disease.

Working ConditionsBiological scientists (microbiologists) usually work regular hours in offices or laboratories and usually are not exposed to unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Those who work with dangerous organisms or toxic substances in the laboratory must follow strict safety procedures to avoid contamination.

Some biologists depend on grant money to support their research. They may be under pressure to meet deadlines and conform to rigid grant-writing specifications when preparing proposals to seek new or extended funding.

Salary RangeThe median annual wage of microbiologists was $65,920 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,180, and the top 10 percent earned more than $115,720.