Studies & Degrees in Microbiology
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Microbiology Study Programs
Microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms, examples of which are bacteria, viruses, protozoa, algae and fungi. Aspects of biology, environmental science and chemistry are all part of such a degree program, which is truly diverse in nature. Some examples of what is to be studied in Microbiology are how microbes develop, what they are made of, and even how they ‘communicate’ with each other.
Studying microbiology would give you a greater depth in understanding the environment in which we all live by making you realize that we are surrounded by miniature organisms, influencing our life in various ways. As a microbiologist, one is able to fully understand the functions of some everyday ingredients, such as yoghurt and yeast. You may have heard that there are good bacteria in yoghurt, but do you know what exactly it does? Examining the microorganisms in yeast on the other hand provides useful knowledge of how to bake bread. Other fermented drinks and foods like beer, wine and cheese are also developed through the help of microbiology. Research in microbiology also involves study of plants, helping prevent pests, weeds, and animal diseases. Last but not least, the study of microbiology helps to develop a great number of products, such as antibiotics, detergents or cosmetics that either help us fight diseases, or enhance the effect of some positive micro-organisms. Microbiologists could even help and advice the government on public health policies.
To study microbiology, you must most certainly have an interest in sciences. As microbiology is still evolving as a science, and around 99% of microbes existing on Earth are not yet studied, a yearning for knowledge and an experimental nature would definitely fit such a degree program. Curiosity, combined with a great willingness to learn and examine small details, are all personal qualities that would enhance your experience on a microbiology degree program. To plan ahead, a student may wish to concentrate on math and sciences in high school.
Other qualities that are most likely to be required also include:
- Ability to carry out a great deal of research, explaining outcomes in a clear and concise manner
- Analytical and logical thought to perform analysis
- Good communication skills – both oral and written
- Statistical awareness, combined with a desire for preciseness
- Problem solving skills; creative thinking
- Ability to work in a team
Basic undergraduate degrees in Microbiology are offered by many universities. If there is a specific area of interest that the student wishes to pursue (i.e. virology), they should look for a university that carries out research in this particular area. Usually, coursework requirements are very high, and potential science students should be aware of that.
However, an undergraduate degree is not sufficient for most microbiologists. Usually, they undertake graduate work, concentrating on an area of interest, which also combines research opportunities. For a graduate course, requirements are strict again – the student needs to provide transcripts, recommendation letters, scores, etc.
Post-graduate work is also very common in the field of microbiology, giving an opportunity to further explore emerging areas and focus on research even working with individuals, who are cutting edge in this field.
As mentioned earlier, many employers would require a postgraduate qualification, but if you wish not to acquire one, various options are available in industry, pharmaceuticals, or the health service. Overall, career paths in the following areas are available for microbiologists:
- Medicine and Health – development of vaccines and methods to detect and fight diseases; improving and developing diagnostic tools.
- Drug Industry – this is the largest industry for microbiologists
- Forensic science – examination of fingerprints and other samples in criminal investigations
- A preparation for medical, dental or vet school
- Traditional lab and research environment
Job roles include Immunologist, Parasitologist, Biotechnologist, Forensic Specialist, Environmental Scientist, Technical Sales, Quality Assurance Technologist, Science writer, Teacher.
Types of Employers are both Private and Non-profit Organizations: Biotechnology Firms, Chemical Manufacturing Firms, Crime Labs, Private Schools, Research Institutes, Hospitals, Computer companies, Energy companies, etc.
Positions can also be found in Government agencies, such as the Military, Centers for Disease Control, Drug Enforcement Agencies, Public Health Services, etc.