Employment Prospects


Approximately 21,700 microbiologists are employed in the United States. You can find federal government jobs with such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health. Jobs are also available in state departments of health and ecology.

Universities hire microbiologists to teach and to conduct research. Other employers include hospitals; medical laboratories; and biotechnology, drug and pharmaceutical, and food-processing companies. Biotechnology companies tend to be concentrated in some of the major metropolitan areas, such as Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Starting Out

While you are in college, try to find an internship or a part-time job as a research assistant in a university laboratory or with a company that hires microbiologists. A research assistant in a genetics laboratory, for example, might wash glassware, prepare chemical reagents, and conduct basic research.

Also while you are in college, consider joining the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) so you can take advantage of the many members-only career opportunities offered. (For student membership, you must be majoring in microbiology or a related field and not yet have earned your doctorate.) Science magazine (http://sciencemag.org) and NewScientist https://jobs.newscientist.com/jobs/microbiology/united-states) post job openings. During your graduate study you can attend events that will give you plenty of chances to network with professionals in the field. Check the ASM Web site for more in-depth information.

Upon graduation, many microbiologists become university faculty members or researchers. With a Ph.D., you may be able to obtain a postdoctoral fellowship.

Advancement Prospects

Microbiologists may begin as research assistants and move to supervisory positions. If properly credentialed, microbiologists may direct laboratories. Microbiologists who become instructors may move into academic administrative positions. Other advancement opportunities exist in companies, where microbiologists may move into executive positions. Experienced microbiologists are put in charge of government programs. Some microbiologists choose to start their own independent consulting businesses.

Tips for Entry

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:

  • https://www.asmcareerconnections.org
  • https://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org
  • https://www.isme-microbes.org/job-adverts
  • https://careers.asbmb.org
  • https://www.aibs.org/classifieds

Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. 

Land an entry-level job as a research assistant to learn about the field and make industry contacts.

Ask your career services office for assistance in setting up an informational interview with a microbiologist to learn more about their work and any recommendations they may have for students interested in this field.