How Do I Become an Industrial Microbiologist?

Jessica F. Black

A doctoral degree is usually required to successfully become an industrial microbiologist, but there are lesser degrees qualify you for entry level employment. Students who are interested in science related fields usually excel in mathematics and science early in their educational career. Many high schools offer extra curricular math and science clubs, and students who plan to become an industrial microbiologist should participate in as many of these activities as possible. Once you have made the decision to enter this field, you will need to research undergraduate programs that will accommodate your plans. Microbiology is an extremely specific field, and not all universities will have a well-developed degree program in this subject area.

Industrial microbiologists work to commercialize microscopic organisms.
Industrial microbiologists work to commercialize microscopic organisms.

Once you have been accepted to an undergraduate program that will fulfill the general requirements to become an industrial microbiologist, you will need to take introductory mathematics and science courses as prerequisites for advanced microbiology coursework. Advanced classes may include general microbiology, microbial genetics, introduction to biotechnology laboratory, microbial physiology, virology, and environmental microbiology. You will need to excel in these courses in order to be accepted into a graduate program in this field. During your undergraduate coursework, you should consider doing an internship or working part-time in a related field. Hands-on training is essential to become an industrial microbiologist and will also help you with graduate coursework.

A microbiologist may use Petri dishes to study bacteria.
A microbiologist may use Petri dishes to study bacteria.

Having only a bachelor's of science (B.S.) degree in microbiology may limit your chances for career advancement, and you should plan to enter a graduate program. Graduate school may take at least two years and will involve courses such as geomicrobiology, medical microbiology, advance biochemistry, immunology, prokaryotic diversity, and microbial ecology. Many students enter a lower level position in industrial microbiology while working on their master's degree, which equips them with the skills needed to complete advanced laboratory work. Some positions during graduate studies could lead to a permanent career, and your amount of experience may be essential to become an industrial microbiologist.

This is a delicate career involving microorganisms, and you will need to have an additional set of traits to progress in this profession. Patience, precision, organization, and various other technical skills will be required to perform most of the job duties, such as studying microscopic life forms, extensive research, testing and diagnosing public health problems. Throughout school you should also take communication and technical writing courses because you will need to be able to communicate with other professionals and record data.

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