If you are an inquisitive person that enjoys conducting investigations and working in a lab, a career as a bacteriologist may be a good fit. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says jobs for microbiologists, which include bacteriologists, will increase by 13 percent through 2020. However, this is not a career for a squeamish person. Bacteriologists study the growth and development of bacteria as well as the effects on plants, animals and humans.
Bacteriologists investigate the role of bacteria in the environment and diseases. They research the use of bacteria in the office and the lab to help make life better for humans by developing vitamins, antibiotics and sugars. Bacteriologists compile their research through technical reports and research papers. The findings are presented to coworkers, policymakers and the public. Since bacteriologists often work on teams, they are usually responsible for supervising the work of staff, including technicians and other scientists.
A bachelor's degree in microbiology or a related field such as biochemistry is required for entry-level positions. Also, taking courses in statistics and computer science is important, especially for analyzing data. Most employers seek bacteriologists with experience working in a lab through internships or mandatory microbiology college programs. For advanced positions, a Ph.D. in microbiology is needed. Bacteriologists in a postdoctoral position usually work with experienced scientists. They also have the opportunity to publish their research findings.
Superior critical-thinking skills are needed for this career. Bacteriologists must be able to conduct lab experiments and draw accurate conclusions from the results. Since they work in a team atmosphere, written and verbal communication skills and presentation skills are important, especially for presenting at conferences and similar events. Organizational skills are important for monitoring a variety of complex research projects and data.
Bacteriologists work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, research labs, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies. They typically work full time in laboratories and office environments. Bacteriologists with a Ph.D. may wish to teach microbiology classes in high schools, colleges and universities. They also play integral roles developing education and training programs for future microbiologists.
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