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Microbiologist

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Summary of occupation

Microbiologists study microbes such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. The central aim of microbiology is to study how microbes interact with the world around them and how we can make use of these interactions. This includes solving important problems in medicine, agriculture and industry. The research possibilities for a microbiologist are many and varied. They can study microbes that spoil food, help plants grow, make medicines or cause diseases. Microbiologists may also work as university lecturers or government advisers on their field of research.

ANZSCO description: Studies microscopic forms of life such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
Alternative names:
Specialisations: Bacteriologist (Non-medical), Environmental bacteriologist, Food microbiologist, Immunologist, Industrial microbiologist, Medical microbiologist, Microbial epidemiologist, Mycologist, Protozoologist, Virologist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A microbiologist needs:

  • to enjoy working in a laboratory
  • a passion for using science to solve problems
  • to be comfortable handling microbial samples, possibly including human tissues, fungi or bacteria
  • high attention to detail
  • good concentration
  • practical writing skills in order to produce reports
  • the ability to work well in a team
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Working conditions

Microbiologists usually work in laboratories with a range of equipment, from culture samples in petri dishes to sophisticated computer software. Working conditions are usually clean and comfortable, but may pose some danger to health and safety, given the types of organisms that microbiologists often work with. Some microbiologists may work in non-laboratory based areas such as agricultural sites when collecting samples. Others may work as teachers in a university classroom or advising government departments. Working days are often long, especially at the beginning of one's career. There is little travel required for microbiologists.

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Salary details

On average, microbiologists, classified under life scientists, can expect to earn between $1 500 and $1 999 per week ($78 000 and $103 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a microbiologist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Microbiologists work with a range of technologies. These include microscopes used to study microbe cultures and various laboratory apparatus used to test tissue samples. These samples can vary widely depending on the area of research, and can include anything from honey to human blood. Computer programs which analyse microbes are also used. Standard word processing and presentation computer software is also used to write reports and deliver findings to an audience.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a microbiologist, you usually need to complete a degree in science, majoring in microbiology and immunology, biomedical science or food science and technology.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.  

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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