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About the Job

Investigate the growth, structure, development, and other characteristics of microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, algae, or fungi. Includes medical microbiologists who study the relationship between organisms and disease or the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms.

It is also Called

  • Virologist
  • Study Director
  • Research Microbiologist
  • Quality Control Microbiologist (QC Microbiologist)
  • Microscopist
  • Microbiology Laboratory Manager
  • Microbiology Director
  • Microbiology Analyst
  • Microbiologist
  • Microbiological Laboratory Technician
View All

What They Do

  • Conduct chemical analyses of substances such as acids, alcohols, and enzymes.
  • Develop new products and procedures for sterilization, food and pharmaceutical supply preservation, or microbial contamination detection.
  • Research use of bacteria and microorganisms to develop vitamins, antibiotics, amino acids, grain alcohol, sugars, and polymers.
  • Study the structure and function of human, animal, and plant tissues, cells, pathogens and toxins.
  • Observe action of microorganisms upon living tissues of plants, higher animals, and other microorganisms, and on dead organic matter.
  • Use a variety of specialized equipment such as electron microscopes, gas chromatographs and high pressure liquid chromatographs, electrophoresis units, thermocyclers, fluorescence activated cell sorters and phosphorimagers.
  • Monitor and perform tests on water, food, and the environment to detect harmful microorganisms or to obtain information about sources of pollution, contamination, or infection.
  • Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists.
  • Prepare technical reports and recommendations based upon research outcomes.
  • Investigate the relationship between organisms and disease, including the control of epidemics and the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms.


People who work in this occupation generally have the interest code: IR.

This means people who work in this occupation generally have Investigative interests, but also prefer Realistic environments.

Work Values

People who work in this occupation generally prize Recognition, but also value Achievement and Independence in their jobs.

Things They Need to Know

  • Biology - Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Chemistry - Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Things They Need to Be Able to Do

  • Science - Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Education Required

Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).


In 2016, the average annual wage in Pennsylvania was $70,500 with most people making between $43,600 and $117,340


avg. annual growth

During 2014, this occupation employed approximately 1,190 people in Pennsylvania. It is projected that there will be 1,240 employed in 2024.

This occupation will have about 5 openings due to growth and about 35 replacement openings for approximately 40 total annual openings.

Pennsylvania Department of Education