Job Description:

Microbiologists study micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae.

Job Category:
Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences

What you will do:

You could work in an area like:

  • healthcare – as a clinical microbiologist, helping to prevent the spread of infection
  • research and development for the pharmaceutical and food industries
  • education
  • biotechnology industries

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • monitoring, identifying and helping to control infectious diseases
  • using molecular biology techniques to develop and test new medicines and treatments
  • investigating how microorganisms produce antibodies, vaccines, hormones and other biotechnology products
  • assessing the use of microbes in food production, crop protection and soil fertility
  • monitoring the quality and safety of manufactured food and medical products
  • using microorganisms to control pollution and dispose of waste safely

You may also present research findings, supervise the work of support staff or carry out administrative tasks.

If you work as a researcher and lecturer in a university or teaching hospital, you might also be involved in tutoring, mentoring and supervising students.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of biology
  • science skills
  • maths knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • analytical thinking skills and organisational skills
  • excellent written communication skills
  • teamwork skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a microbiologist, you’ll need a strong educational foundation in science and biology. Here’s a list of subjects that are typically important for pursuing a career in microbiology:

  1. Biology (Essential): This is the most crucial subject. Biology provides a fundamental understanding of living organisms, cells, genetics, and basic microbiology concepts.
  2. Chemistry (Important): Chemistry is essential for understanding the chemical processes that occur in microorganisms, as well as laboratory work involving chemicals and solutions.
  3. Mathematics (Essential): Basic math skills are important for performing calculations related to microbiology experiments and data analysis.
  4. Physics (Useful): While not as directly related as biology and chemistry, physics can provide a well-rounded scientific background that may be beneficial.
  5. English Language (Essential): Good communication skills, both written and verbal, are important for documenting research findings and presenting them to others.
  6. Information Technology (IT) or Computer Science (Useful): As technology plays an increasingly important role in research and data analysis, IT or computer science skills can be advantageous.

Post School

You’ll need a degree in a subject like microbiology, biology, or another biological science with a strong focus on microbiology.

Some employers may want a relevant postgraduate qualification and some work experience. You may be able to get work experience through a work placement as part of a sandwich degree course, or by arranging work experience with companies.

The Microbiology Society and the Society for Applied Microbiology offer grants to support students looking for work experience.

You could also get into microbiology by starting as a laboratory technician and studying part-time for a relevant degree.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may work on-call.

Most of your work will take place in a laboratory.

You’ll usually wear protective clothing like gloves, a laboratory coat and safety glasses to help prevent contamination.

You may need to travel to meetings and conferences.

Career Path & Progression:

You could move into lab management, research or teaching.

In the NHS you could progress to specialist, team manager and consultant.

You could also offer consultancy services in areas like pharmaceutical sales, publishing and law.