How Do I Become a Research Microbiologist?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2020
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Anyone wishing to become a research microbiologist should begin by acquiring an appropriate college degree and should attempt to acquire experience relevant to a specific sub-field of microbiology in the process. Advanced research generally requires a PhD from a reputable institution. Careers in this field are possible in industry, government, and academia, and each area has slightly different requirements.

A degree is microbiology is essential in order to become a research microbiologist. Some jobs in this field involve mostly technical laboratory work, and these positions generally require only a bachelor’s degree in the field. Such positions rarely allow for the opportunity to do independent research, however, and a student hoping to do research should pursue an advanced degree.

Most men and women who work as independent research scientists in the field of microbiology hold a PhD in the field. If possible, students should earn degrees from institutions with reputations for producing excellent research scientists. Each university tends to specialize in certain sub-fields and areas of research, and a student should attempt to find a place in a department and on a team whose research interests align with his or her own. Scientists at this level tend to focus on specific types of microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses and on specific practical fields ranging from immunology to agriculture.


As in many scientific disciplines, a man or woman looking to become a research microbiologist will often need to pursue additional research work and training in the form of a post-doctoral appointment, after earning a PhD These positions are typically used to broaden a candidate’s base of skills and to allow him to make specific connections within the field. It is not uncommon for scientists to work through two or more such temporary positions before finding a permanent job.

Industry hires many research scientists. Research microbiologist duties in this area typically focus either on maintaining food safety in the agricultural sector or on conducting research to develop new drugs and other products for pharmaceutical companies. A student wishing to become a research microbiologist in this sector of the economy should make a point of focusing his or her studies on a field with practical applications and should seek internship experience while in school.

Many governmental agencies employ microbiologists as well, in many different fields. Academic training is the normal path to becoming a research microbiologist in this field. Careers in the government sector can focus on fields ranging from the identification and control of new pathogens to the monitoring of food safety.

A large number of research microbiologist careers are in academia. Good performance in a graduate program coupled with excellent interpersonal connections in the field are helpful for students who are looking to become a research microbiologist of this sort. Teaching skills may be required for some of these positions.



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