Earning a great salary, enjoying numerous professional benefits, sleeping easy knowing you have solid job security, and still being able to take pride in what you do are all hallmarks of a great career. And entering the public health field is one way to enjoy all of those benefits without having to focus on providing one on one bedside care. There are plenty of paths into public health, but becoming a public health microbiologist is one choice you may want to consider.
This position is one that allows you to help others while working in a research focused position, and could lead to you having a direct impact on the health of the population in different ways. To learn more about the job, keep reading.
What Is a Public Health Microbiologist?
A public health microbiologist is just what it sounds like – a highly trained microbiologist who focuses their work on the public health field. These professionals use tools in the laboratory to run tests on various diseases. Their specific job duties will vary greatly depending on just what they do, but may include:
- Run tests on specimens to determine the presence of communicable disease
- Record test results
- File records for easy retrieval later
- Compile data for use in research studies
- Study how viruses or bacteria grow or react when exposed to different medications or samples
- Test animals for disease or pathogens
- Work with policy makers and health officials to identify health risks or trends within the population
Those in this field usually work to identify disease, research how disease is spread or how it can be prevented, and work on cures or prevention methods. Their overall goal is to prevent the spread of disease and to uncover more about the nature of diseases – including new diseases that may appear throughout the future.
There are numerous skills and characteristics that can help you thrive in this position, and having strength in the following areas will be instrumental in your success as a public health microbiologist.
- Sense of Curiosity – Uncovering how things work and why will be a major part of the job, and having an innate sense of curiosity could help you in a big way.
- Good Teamwork – You’ll likely find yourself working with a group of other professionals, and being able to work as a team player is important.
- Strong Communication – Similarly, having good communication skills is something that can’t be ignored either. It’s a central element to the job.
- Eye For Details – Since the work is done at a microscopic level, and since keeping accurate reports and data is important, you’ll need to have a strong eye for details in order to truly thrive as a public health microbiologist.
Nature of the Work
The job generally focuses on lab work, and it’s common to spend the vast majority of your time in the lab. Gathering samples, examining them through various laboratory techniques, and recording your findings are the backbone of this position and will make up most of any day. Office work like filling out reports, noting discoveries, and filing records will also be part of the job. You may also work with different health professionals to determine specific risks or uncover new solutions to problems.
A public health microbiologist will find work from numerous employers including local, state, and federal governments, hospitals, physician offices, research centers, drug companies, and more.
Education and Training
Usually it is possible to enter the field of public health microbiology through earning a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. Studies will focus on numerous things including chemistry, physics, biochemistry, microbial genetics, environmental microbiology, and more. For positions that are more specialized or advanced, possessing a master’s degree will be required. There are numerous areas of specialization one can choose from including bacteriology or virology, usually in the public health field as well. Some employers also require several years of experience in the field before employment is offered. This experience is usually completed in a lab under the supervision of a more experienced professional. Certification is usually required as well.
Those entering this field will usually earn well over the national salary average. Median wages are about $66,000 annually, with some public health microbiologists earning more than $100,000 per year. Pay will depend on employer, experience, and specific field of work.