Microbiologists are biological scientists who study organisms so small that, generally, they can only be seen with a microscope. These microorganisms include bacteria, algae, yeasts, fungi, protozoa, viruses, and other microscopic forms of life. Microbiologists isolate and make cultures of microorganisms, identify their characteristics, and observe their reactions to chemicals and other kinds of stimuli. They also study how microorganisms develop and reproduce as well as their distribution in nature.
Many microbiologists work for universities, where they teach and do research. Others work at medical centers or in private industry. Some work for government agencies. Although their jobs have different aspects and responsibilities, most microbiologists do some research or laboratory work. They use special equipment to study microorganisms including light microscopes, electron microscopes, centrifuges, glass tubes, slides, and computers. They are often assisted by biological technicians.
Microbiology is a broad field that includes the study of viruses as well as microscopic organisms found in all kingdoms of life: plants, animals, protists, fungi, and bacteria. Some microbiologists specialize in one type of microorganism. For example, bacteriologists concentrate on bacteria and virologists study viruses.
Microbiologists work in several areas. Many do basic research to increase knowledge about the life processes common to microbes. Their work helps to answer basic questions such as those pertaining to the use of food and oxygen in cells. Other microbiologists are employed in medicine. Medical microbiologists study the relationship between microorganisms and disease. They isolate and identify disease-producing organisms and study their distribution. They also study the ways that the organisms enter the bodies of humans and animals, establish themselves, and cause disease. Immunologists, for example, study the body's defensive responses to microorganisms.
Course Benefit / Advantages
There are many possible avenues of advancement for microbiologists, especially for those with a doctoral degree. Microbiologists can become directors of research in medical centers, private firms, or government agencies. Those who hold a teaching and research position in a university can advance to the rank of full professor. They can also make significant discoveries in their research and gain the recognition of other microbiologists. Many scientists consider this to be the highest form of advancement.
Opportunities - Field of Employement
Working conditions for microbiologists vary. Most spend at least part of their time in clean, well-lighted laboratories. Some microbiologists have to collect samples of soil, seawater, and other substances that contain microorganisms. Some microbiologists spend part of their time in classrooms and offices. The workweek for many microbiologists in medical centers and private industry is generally forty hours. Those who work in universities and other research centers may have more flexible hours, but their workweeks generally total more than forty hours. Some overtime or shift work may be necessary when a project must be completed or when an experiment must be monitored around the clock. Microbiologists usually spend some time reading and studying to keep up with the newest findings of other scientists.
Microbiologists must take precautions to prevent specimens from being contaminated and to keep harmful microorganisms from reproducing uncontrollably. They should have skill in scientific experimentation and mathematics and be willing to do the precise, detailed work required in microbiology. Microbiologists should be able to work either independently or as part of a team. They must be able to keep careful records and to communicate their ideas and findings to others.
The earnings of microbiologists vary widely depending on their education and experience, the location, and the kind of job.