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Best Job Prospects for Microbiologists

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 11/16/2010

Most microbiology undergraduates are interested about microbiologist job prospects to thresh out mixed opinions for this profession. Some opine that the work involves long hours with low pay while others claim they are enjoying top-paying jobs. Find out who qualifies for the high salary rates.

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    Who Qualifies for the Best Job Positions for Microbiologists?

    800px-20101017 175758 Bacilli 

    Microbiologist job prospects are said to be the most important career opportunities in today’s job market as they perform different key roles in various industries such as health care, pharmaceuticals, food industry, US military, and independent clinical laboratories. However, not everyone can easily qualify to land the top-paying job opportunities for microbiologists.

    Educational Requirement

    An aspiring microbiologist should complete a baccalaureate degree in microbiology with specific specializations in the study of microbes and cell life (i.e. bacteriology, mycology, parasitology, virology, et al). Actual experience in performing laboratory work is essential to achieve qualification as a professional microbiologist.

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    800px-Microbiologist 01-Renee Galloway, a microbiologist in the Centers for Disease Control’s Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch 

    Work Experience and Required Professional Certifications & Accreditation

    American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)

    A prerequisite before a microbiology technologist can perform work and gain actual experience as a qualified lab technologist is a certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology. This will serve as proof that the candidate has passed the tests administered in order to be considered as a qualified laboratory technician. Bear in mind that this is a general requirement for all those who perform lab work.

    American College of Microbiology (ACM)

    If an aspirant wants to attain a higher recognition of his expertise and skills, he should seek a certification from the American College of Microbiology (ACM) and be included in its roster of certified professional microbiologists known as the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM). There are two types of membership certifications under this standard:

    • Registered Microbiologist (RM-NRCM0) - The membership title earned by the baccalaureate degree holders once they pass the ACM’s qualifying examinations; specializations in food safety and quality, pharmaceutical, and medical areas of field concentrations are required.
    • Specialist Microbiologist (SM-NRCM) - This membership title is earned once the microbiologist passes the ACM’s qualifying examinations. A completed Master’s and doctoral degrees in addition to the baccalaureate diplomas in microbiology and fields of specialization, particularly in biological safety, pharmaceutical, and medical areas of concentrations are prerequisites for this certification.

    These are now the qualifications you will need in order to qualify for the best job prospects for microbiologists for different key positions in clinical and industrial research and development of various industries.

    The highest-paying job offers for this profession are extended to those who have attained the utmost degrees of education, which are the MD and PhD or doctoral levels of specializations.

    American Board of Microbiology (ABMM) or American Board of Medical Laboratory Immunology (ABMLI).

    An added credential to their qualifications is a professional accreditation from the American College of Microbiology (ACM) as an attestation that they have successfully passed the American Board of Microbiology (ABMM) or the American Board of Medical Laboratory Immunology (ABMLI). These certifications earn them the eligibility to land top-paying jobs in the microbiology profession as scientists, administrators, directors, consultants, and corporate executives.

    Now that we have established the qualifications for the top paying microbiologist job prospects, let us take a closer look at the different occupations for each job level.

    Please proceed to the next page for information about microbiologist job prospects, the job descriptions, and pay data.

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    This page of Ciel S. Cantoria'sarticle about microbiologist job prospects contains job descriptions and salary rates for microbiology technologist and microbiology professionals. Take a closer look at what their jobs entail and how much they earn, particularly in US cities where they are popular.
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    Microbiology Technologist

    800px-Leishmania culture in hood 3 

    Job Descriptions

    The work performed by a microbiologist involves a wide range of laboratory tests and procedures for data gathering required for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases, which may be used by a team of clinicians in the health care industry or researchers for pharmaceutical firms and manufacturers of medical devices.

    In the food industry, the microbiology technologist or technician performs the laboratory legwork for a team of researchers and developers for food and beverage products, including those that furnish water treatment products and services. They conduct various lab analyses and identification of the microorganisms present in raw materials as well as the latter’s reactions to environmental air and site waters. Such analyses are performed by microbiology technicians at different stages of food and beverage production and water purification.

    Hourly Salary Rates

    Payscale's pay data for this occupation are hourly salary rates ranging from $12.84 to $18.37. Below is a breakdown of industry-specific pay rates for these jobs:

    • Food Manufacturing - $13.24 to $18.59
    • Professional Analytical and Laboratory Services - $13.77 to $19.27
    • Hospital - $13.82 - $19.62
    • Manufacturers of Medical Devices - $13.67 to $19.26
    • Water Treatment Products & Services - $13.28 to $18.78

    US states where microbiology lab technicians are popular are: Massachusetts, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Georgia.

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    423px-Influenza virus research Dr. Terrence Tumpey, one of the organization’s staff microbiologists and a member of the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID), 

    Job Descriptions

    The typical work of a professional microbiologist is to observe and monitor the activities of microorganisms and track their reactions and development in a wide range of environments. Samples will depend on industry requirements and will vary according to a broad range of sources.

    These professionals are also assigned the tasks of developing new techniques needed by products and processes, to develop methods for disease prevention, for new medicines, vaccines, and diagnostic tests. Their professional work also involves evaluating new products and/or implementing processes for clinical trials.

    The microbiologist works with a research team and coordinates closely with the computer specialist during analyses and research undertakings.

    Average Annual Salaries

    The annual pay data for this job reveals annual salaries ranging from $35,411 to $54,921, while the top paying industries are:

    • Pharmaceuticals - $40,672 - $59,210
    • Medical Device Manufacturers - $39,104 to $56,462
    • Research and Development Biotechnology - $37,911 - $55,990
    • Professional Analytical Laboratory Services - $37,011 to $54,288
    • Healthcare Industry - $36,376 to $53,439

    Currently, the top-paying employers on record are Emory University, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Becton-Dickinson and Company, Actavis, and CML Healthcare, Inc.

    Top Paying US Cities

    The following US cities have the highest records of salaries for these career opportunities:

    • Denver, CO - $35,608 - $97,211
    • Los Angeles, CA - $40,588 - $80,000
    • Miami, FL. - $42,750 - $75,500
    • Irvine, CA - $42,500 to $74,500
    • Minneapolis, MN - $44,110 - $74,267
    • Indianapolis, IN - $40,559 - $73,698
    • Chicago, IL - $35,608 to $63,871
    • St. Louis, MO - $35,493 to $63,500
    • Charlotte, NC - $39,169 to $63,000
    • Cincinnati, OH - $47,889 to $62,000
    • Atlanta, GA - $46,184 - $61,042
    • Boston, MA - $41,500 to $61,500

    Please continue on Page 3 for more on microbiologist job prospects

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    This final page of Ciel S. Cantoria's article about microbiology job prospects contains the scope of work and responsibilities of top-paying microbiologist executives who occupy positions as microbiology research scientists and associate clinical research director. Find out the average annual salaries earned in these top-paying positions in the field of microbiology.
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    Microbiology Research Scientist

    800px-Leishmania culture in hood 3 

    Job Descriptions:

    As the supervisor or head of the company’s research staff, the microbiology research scientist is responsible for investigating the feasibility of applying scientific principles and concepts in the use and development of technologies, raw materials, and processes for medical, clinical, and food products.

    Based on this, he develops the plan on how the laboratory processes will be executed in order to prove the feasibility of proposed concepts. He reviews all technical documents and will identify the program and its initiation, necessary for innovating the new product or technology. However, his knowledge, experiments, and applications will be in accordance with corporate and divisional policies as well as governmental regulations.

    As the head of the organization’s research team, this particular scientist is in charge of mentoring, advising, assisting, and directing the team in its participation from inception to problem recognition as well as review and resolution of issues. In addition, he also provides his technical expertise in the acquisition of new technical apparatuses and development of technological teams.

    The microbiology research scientist works under the helm of the microbiologist advisor / consultant / director.

    Average Annual Salaries

    The national pay data for this job prospect in microbiology shows that salaries range from $52,508 to $94,421, while the following are the currently listed top employers for this profession:

    • Pfizer, Inc. - $65,983 - $103,351
    • Merck & Co. Inc. - $61,764 - $96,446
    • GlaxoSmithKline - $53,466 - $87,176
    • Novartis - $61,100 - $84,983
    • University of Washington - $33,911 - $55,000

    Popular industry classifications hiring these scientists are (1) Research and Development - Biotechnology, (2) Pharmaceutical, (3) College/University Education, and (4) Academics.

    US cities with the highest record of salaries paid to microbiology scientists are:

    • Los Alamos, NM - $71,500 - $140,000
    • Jersey City, NJ - $49,132 - $132,257
    • Sta. Clara, CA - $91,422 - $131,400
    • Rahway, NJ - $70,000 - $127,743
    • Arlington, VA - $80,000 - $125,498
    • Mountain View, CA - $81,147 - $123,386
    • Palo Alto, CA - $66,778 - $117,956
    • Knoxville, TN - $76,614 - $116,653
    • San Jose, CA - $83,925 - $114,930
    • Somerville, NJ - $80,085 - $111,910
    • Nutley, NJ - $75,135 - $111,910
    • Pearl, River, NY - $73,698 - $109,818
    • San Francisco, CA - $70,867 - $109,244
    • Niskayuna, NY - $86,000 - $108,621
    • Richland, WA - $67,805 - $104,121
    • Princeton, NJ - $74,220 - $101,036
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    Associate Clinical Research Director

    800px-Sen. Gregg Visits Lab Dr. Francis Collins, director of NHGRI 

    Job Descriptions

    The associate clinical research director is responsible for leading the organization’s different research teams in pursuit of next-generation products, for the treatment of medicines, vaccines, devices and processes, or for a specific project phase, i.e. clinical trial, clinical development, or clinical research.

    Average Annual Salaries

    Annual salary data provided by Payscale reveals salaries ranging from $94,070 - $157,174, in which the top hirers are: (1) Pfizer, Inc. - $123,699 - $194,541, (2) Novartis – (no data available), (3) Quintiles Transnational Corp. – (no data available).

    Top industries with the most number of job postings include (1) pharmaceuticals, (2) clinical research services, (3) health care services, and (4) contract research organizations.

    US cities which posted the highest salaries paid to Clinical Research Laboratory Directors include:

    • New York, NY - $65,000 - $180,000
    • San Diego, CA - $106,685 - $175,000
    • Cambridge, MA - $110,000 - $146,000
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    Vice President for Clinical Affairs

    Professional microbiologists who succeed in reaching the pinnacle of the organization as, for example, vice president for clinical affairs can expect annual salary pays ranging from $119,642 - $234,209. This could be as head of the department for all clinical development and regulatory affairs for the domestic or US units.

    These are the now the pathways for the best microbiologist job prospects on which aspiring microbiologists can build their careers as qualified professionals in the field of microbiological science.

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    Reference Materials and Image Credit Section


    • NRCM Eligibility Information --
    • University of Florida Microbiology & Sell Science Careers in the Microbiological Sciences --

    Image Credits: