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Microbiologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Investigates 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.

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cluster Plant Systems pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Investigates the relationship between organisms and disease including the control of epidemics and the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms.
  • Prepares technical reports and recommendations based upon research outcomes.
  • Supervises biological technologists and technicians and other scientists.
  • Provides laboratory services for health departments, for community environmental health programs and for physicians needing information for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Uses a variety of specialized equipment such as electron microscopes, gas chromatographs and high pressure liquid chromatographs, electrophoresis units, thermocyclers, fluorescence activated cell sorters and phosphoimagers.
  • Examines physiological, morphological, and cultural characteristics, using microscope, to identify and classify microorganisms in human, water, and food specimens.
  • Studies growth, structure, development, and general characteristics of bacteria and other microorganisms to understand their relationship to human, plant, and animal health.
  • Isolates and maintains cultures of bacteria or other microorganisms in prescribed or developed media, controlling moisture, aeration, temperature, and nutrition.
  • Observes action of microorganisms upon living tissues of plants, higher animals, and other microorganisms, and on dead organic matter.
  • Studies the structure and function of human, animal and plant tissues, cells, pathogens and toxins.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous situations involving possible injury such as cuts, bites, stings, and minor burns more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Clinical Laboratory Scientist -- Performs lab tests that doctors use to diagnose and address patients' health issues.
  • Physical Scientist -- Specializes in sciences that do not deal with living organisms such as physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology.
  • Virologist -- Conducts research into the structure and origin, effects and management of viruses in plants, animals or humans.