If you're interested in finding new ways to stop the spread of infectious disease and have an aptitude for science and an interest in studying bacteria at the microscopic level, a program in bacteriology might be a good fit for you. Read on to learn more about education and employment for microbiologists.
Bacteriology is a branch of microbiology in which the focus of study is on bacteria and its effects on humans and the environment. As a microbiologist, you'll study organisms that are too small to be seen without a microscope, such as bacteria and viruses. Microbiologists deal with issues that touch on many aspects of our lives, including controlling the spread of infectious diseases, ensuring safe drinking water and maintaining a safe food supply. Medical bacteriology is concerned primarily with bacteria that cause disease and disease control.
With a bachelor's degree in microbiology, you're prepared to work for a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company. You may also work for a public health agency, university or research institution. Working as a microbiology technician in a research lab is another option.
Alternatively, you may choose to continue your education with a specialized degree and become a doctor, dentist, veterinarian or research scientist. If you aspire to be a doctor, you'll pursue a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). However, if your interest is in research, a master's degree or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is typically required.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May 2013, microbiologists earned a median annual wage of $67,840. Employment opportunities for this subcategory of biological scientists are expected to increase by 7%, or slower than average, between 2012 and 2022. According to the BLS, the majority of biological scientists who do independent research need a Ph.D. However, you'll only need a bachelor's degree to work as a medical laboratory technician - these professionals had a median annual wage of $37,970 in May 2013. As reported by the BLS, medical and clinical lab technicians can look forward to a 30% growth in jobs nationwide through 2022 (www.bls.gov).
Microbiology degrees are offered from the bachelor's to the doctoral levels. If you wish to work in medical bacteriology, you can find programs that allow you to specialize in bacteriology. A bachelor's degree in microbiology presents you with a challenging curriculum that includes courses in mathematics, physics, biochemistry, chemistry, genetics, biological science and molecular biology. You'll also spend time gaining hands-on experience in a laboratory setting.
In a microbiology master's degree program, research is emphasized in such areas as the exploration of viral and bacterial pathogenesis and the regulation of gene expression. You may have a choice between a coursework and a research track. The coursework option is generally for students who are already employed and seeking advancement in their jobs. The lab option is for those with a desire to learn research skills and typically requires a written thesis based on research. A master's degree program can be completed in two years.
A Ph.D. in Microbiology program requires specific research on which you'll base a written dissertation. If you're interested in teaching at the university level or working in a scientific research setting, a Ph.D. will most likely be a requirement. It typically takes 4-5 years to complete a Ph.D. program.