Microbiologists are laboratory scientists who study microorganisms and viruses to learn about their structure, behavior, and function. Most scientists specialize in a certain field of microbiology, concentrating on the evolution of microbes, genetics, the origins of disease, or medical applications. An individual who is interested in getting started in a microbiologist career should seek a degree from an accredited university, decide on a specialty, and look for internships or assistant position at research facilities. Most practicing microbiologists hold advanced degrees and gain years of laboratory experience before becoming independent researchers.
A person who wants to pursue a microbiologist career can investigate undergraduate biology programs at accredited colleges and universities. Some four-year bachelor's degree programs allow students to specialize in microbiology, but even a general biology program provides an individual with the tools and basic information that will be essential in a microbiologist career. Students are usually introduced to microbiology principles in classroom lectures, and they have the opportunity to gain firsthand laboratory experience in university facilities. Prospective scientists often pursue research assistant positions to gain a better understanding of microbiology and improve their chances of getting into an advanced degree program.
A bachelor's degree in biology or microbiology is sufficient to obtain some entry level microbiologist jobs, though people who want to conduct independent research are generally required to hold doctoral degrees. Many schools offer several different types of doctoral programs, each geared at a specialty within the field. Students have the opportunity to pursue a degree in molecular biology, genetics, evolutionary microbiology, or one of many other sub-disciplines. Once a student has chosen an area of specialty, he or she can speak with program advisers to develop an individualized degree plan.
Doctoral programs typically last three to four years, and include intensive classroom and laboratory studies. Many prospective microbiologists engage in important research with professors and other students as part of a degree plan. Some students have the opportunity to publish research results and compose dissertations, which can be very helpful when pursuing a microbiologist career. Upon completion of their degree plans, most schools will help graduates find internship or assistant positions at laboratory facilities.
New interns and assistants typically work with experienced microbiologists for several years. They help to organize experiments, apply for grants, set up materials, and record results. After gaining practical experience and producing meaningful research, a new scientist is often rewarded with the opportunity to conduct independent studies. A motivated individual with a proven record of reliable work often enjoys a high level of job security and esteem within a microbiologist career.