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How Do I Become a Microbiologist?

The career path for microbiologists often involves studying environmental science.
A microbiologist may use Petri dishes to study bacteria.
Microbiologists find work in both the public and private sectors.
Microbiologists may gather water samples to test for harmful microorganisms.
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  • Written By: T. L. Childree
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 23 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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If you desire to become a microbiologist, you can begin preparing in high school by studying chemistry, biology, and physics. Most students then enroll in a four-year college or university to earn a bachelor's degree in microbiology. After earning the initial degree, you should continue on to earn a master’s or doctoral degree, as this is typically required, and then seek professional certification. After you become a microbiologist, employment can be gained in the medical, biotechnology, or environmental protection field.

It is best to begin preparing for this career while still in high school by taking as many science courses as possible and at least three years of mathematics. Your high school education must provide a basic understanding of microscopic organisms, such as algae, fungi, and bacteria, and you should also be able to perform mathematical calculations. Paying careful attention in composition classes will also help you to present a well-written report of your scientific findings.

To become a microbiologist, you must also earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college. Most microbiology degree programs teach general science and math courses during the first two years, while courses pertaining specifically to microbiology are taught during the last two years. Typical coursework includes subjects such as microbial genetics and cellular physiology, as well as pathogenic microbiology and organic chemistry. A bachelor’s degree in this field will equip you with a good understanding of microorganisms and their various functions.

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After completing your bachelor’s degree, you must also earn a master’s or doctoral degree to become a microbiologist, which will allow you to specialize in a particular field of expertise. During your graduate studies, you will learn how to design and execute laboratory experiments and share your findings with other researchers. Most school's also require you to research an original topic during graduate school. A master’s or doctoral degree typically leads to employment as a biochemist, bacteriologist, or immunologist.

Upon completion of your formal education, you should seek some type of professional certification to assure prospective employers that your skills are up-to-date. In the United States, the American College of Microbiology offers professional microbiologist credentials to qualified candidates. Certification candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree in the field of microbiology and lab experience in four key areas. The certification examination covers several key areas including molecular microbiology, mycology, and mycobacteriology, in addition to virology, parasitology, and bacteriology.

After you become a microbiologist, employment can usually be found in the medical, biotechnology, or environmental protection field, though you may also be able to find work in the food safety industry. Microbiologists are typically employed by both private and governmental agencies. It may be possible to secure a college teaching or research position after you have gained sufficient work experience if this is something that you enjoy.

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