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Microbiologist

Alternative titles for this job include

Microbiologists study organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae to make advances in environmental science, medicine and agriculture.

Average salary (a year)

£23,000 Starter

to

£45,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

38 to 40 a week

You could work

between 8am and 6pm flexibly

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become Microbiologist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

University

To become a microbiologist, you could do a degree in:

  • microbiology
  • biology
  • life sciences
  • biological science

Some degree courses include an integrated master's qualification like MBiol or MSci. You'll usually have more time for independent research and they're designed to lead directly onto further postgraduate study like a PhD.

Training programme for the NHS

If you want to work in the NHS as a microbiologist, you could apply to the Scientist Training Programme (STP) after your degree.

You'll train on the job, get paid a salary and receive a master's degree at the end.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including biology for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More Information

Apprenticeship

You may be able to become a microbiologist by doing an apprenticeship, for example:

  • Laboratory Scientist Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship
  • Research Scientist Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship

These apprenticeships can take between 3 and 5 years to complete.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship

More Information

Work

You might be able to get into microbiology by working your way up from a laboratory technician.

You would need to study part time for a biological science degree or degree apprenticeship while you work.

Volunteering

You may improve your career prospects if you can get some work experience in a lab.

You can find opportunities with the NHS, as part of your degree course or by working during the holidays. Your university can also help you find volunteering opportunities.

Real career story

A middle aged woman smiling in front of fields and trees.

Biological science degree

“I originally wanted to do a veterinary degree, but did not get the required grades. So, I chose to do a degree in biological science, specialising in human and animal physiology.”

Admin office job

“When I left university, I got a job doing office work for the Ministry of Agriculture. I knew it would give me access to internal science vacancies in other parts of the ministry.”

Veterinary microbiology role

“By accessing these internal vacancies, I got a job doing diagnostic veterinary microbiology for the government. I did this role for 25 years, continually increasing my knowledge and expertise through on-the-job training.”

Scientist role working on vaccines

“When the COVID-19 pandemic came along, I realised that I had the specialist skills to help. I applied for a job with the UK Health Security Agency to help develop and evaluate vaccines.

My work now helps the government decide which vaccines are used for its vaccination programme. It is incredibly rewarding to know that I am helping to protect the people that I meet every day on the street.”

More Information

Professional and industry bodies

You can join the Microbiology Society to get professional recognition, find training opportunities and make new contacts.

Further information

You can get more advice about working in microbiology from the Microbiology Society and Health Careers.

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • knowledge of biology
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • maths knowledge
  • science skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • analytical thinking skills
  • excellent written communication skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

As a microbiologist, you could:

  • test patient samples to identify infections and monitor outbreaks
  • develop new medical treatments using microbiology techniques
  • investigate how microorganisms make antibodies, vaccines and hormones
  • assess the impact of microbes in foods, crops and soils
  • check the safety of manufactured food or medicines
  • use microorganisms to control pollution and develop biofuels

Working environment

You could work at a university or in a laboratory.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could:

  • manage a team of microbiologists and technicians
  • move into commercial research and development
  • teach at university
  • offer consultancy services

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

Current opportunities

Find apprenticeships, courses and jobs available near you.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Degree Apprentice Development Chemist

  • Wage: £19,000 a year Annually
  • Location: Wakefield Road, Swillington, Leeds

Lab Technician Apprentice

  • Wage: £18,000 a year Annually
  • Location: Ashton Under Lyne, Manchester

Courses In England

Applied Science

  • Provider: BENTON PARK SCHOOL
  • Start date: 03 September 2024
  • Location: Leeds

Applied Science

  • Provider: MARIA FIDELIS CATHOLIC SCHOOL FCJ
  • Start date: 01 September 2024
  • Location: London

Jobs In the United Kingdom

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