Mycologists study fungi, which may not seem appealing, but the agricultural, environmental, and pharmaceutical value of fungi is huge in society. Mycologists often work for government agencies, universities, pharmaceutical companies, the agricultural industry and research laboratories. They apply their research to medicine, product development and the environment. Mycology is not the most renowned scientific field, but there are thousands of species of fungi that are yet to be explored, creating a demand for mycologists and their work.
Mycologists can travel several career paths. Some mycologists work as professors and researchers in academic settings and others go into agricultural mycology, where they may work as quarantine officers, plant pathologists or food inspectors. Medical mycologists specialize in fungal infections in humans, and environmental mycologists investigate the effects of fungi on air quality. Taxonomic mycologists must be comfortable venturing outdoors in various climates as they spend their time identifying and classifying fungi.
The duties of a mycologist depend on the job. General mycologists specialize in the study of fungi existing in humans, plants, and animals. A mycology professor teaches students about the study of fungi and pursues novel research. Agricultural mycologists must develop ways to prevent fungi growth on crops to improve agricultural production. Medicinal mycologists explore the possible use of fungi in medicine, develop new antibiotics, and study the potential of mushrooms as anticancer drugs. Environmental mycologists, on the other hand, investigate the use of fungi to deal with environmental pollutants.
Mycologists start their education by getting a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, biology, botany, or a related field. The Mycological Society of America recommends that students take courses in microbiology, bacteriology, genetics, physiology, and biochemistry, as well as mycology subjects. Some employers may require a master’s or doctorate. Furthermore, there are various societies and associations, such as the North American Mycology Association, that allow mycologists to remain up-to-date with the latest scientific advances, research, and jobs.
The demand for this field is small, but the job outlook remains positive because there are only a few qualified people to fill available jobs. Colleges just aren't producing tons of mycology graduates. Along with other types of microbiologists, their employment rate is projected to increase by 13 percent through 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary of mycologists was $65,920 in 2010. Like many jobs, their salaries depend on the employer, and those who work for the federal government earned an annual mean wage of $100,910 in 2010.