Public Health Microbiologist

Public Health Microbiologist Careers

If you are looking for a career that can help your community and increase your chances for earnings and advancement, then the field of public health could provide amazing opportunities.  Public health career span a wide variety of disciplines and offer exciting ways to help develop your own potential.  As well, public health careers also allow you to be of service to society, on a local, state, and even federal level.

Working as a public health microbiologist can give you the perfect way to contribute to the health and safety of your community, while you are in a place of steady employment that is rewarding on many levels.  The demand for this position is increasing steadily, especially as intervention and prevention are becoming a focal point in healthcare.  This not only ensures job security, but also gives you ample opportunity to advance in a career within this exciting field.

What Is A Public Health Microbiologist?

A public health microbiologist is a laboratory scientist who specializes in the identification, detection, and containment of microscopic organisms that may cause disease or be otherwise detrimental to the public wellbeing.  This job generally does not require field work as the specimens to be examined have already been collected.  Bacteria and fungi are analyzed from human tissue samples as well as environmental samples.

A public health microbiologist will not only be looking at vectors for infectious disease, but will also consider sources and modes of infection that can occur from sources such as food supplies, water, and the environment.  Along with identifying the microorganism, a public health microbiologist will also be responsible for developing viable solutions and interventions to reduce the spread of illness within the community.

As a public health microbiologist, you would be expected to perform the following tasks:

  •   Analyze samples that have been collected from various sources.
  •   Identify possible contagions within those samples.
  •   Identify the vectors for those contagions and deduce the long term implications of spread.
  •   Record and report findings.
  •   Be familiar with known and unknown hazardous microorganisms.
  •   Develop strategies for intervention based on findings and deductions.
  •   Provide research and support for the management and control of possible outbreaks.
  •   Assist and consult in creating means of public education regarding possible threats.
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Although a strong scientific and lab based background are integral to becoming a public health microbiologist, the following traits are also important for this position:

  •   Critical thinking skills:  You will need to be able to deduce the meaning and importance of your lab findings as they relate to public health concerns.  This will include applying your understanding of microorganisms and human behavioral habits to generate patterns of infection and spread.
  •   Scientific knowledge:  You will need a strong background in scientific process, as well as an understanding of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms.  You will also need to be familiar with lab techniques and sterile procedure when analyzing samples. 
  •   Communication:  Written and verbal communications are highly important, as you will need to be able to convey your findings and possible implications of those findings in a clear and meaningful way.
  •   Detail oriented approach:  You will need to be able to work in both a reductionist and expansionist mindset.  This means staying aware of the slightest clues within your analysis and also being able to see how those details translate to large scale scenarios.
  •   Patience and exactitude:  Precision in your actions will also play a large part in this type of work, and having the patience to operate in exactly replicable procedures will be a must.  Culturing microorganisms can be time consuming, and maintaining the focus of observing growth cycles will also be important.

Nature Of The Work

The majority of the work that a public health microbiologist performs will be in the lab.  In analyzing samples, you will need you will need to be familiar with microbes in order to identify and classify them as either harmful or innocuous.  Microtechniques, epidemiology, and biochemistry will all be large parts of the lab work.  Along with isolating potential threats, you will also need to culture the microbes in order to develop theories on spread and a timeline for contamination.

Sterile procedures will also play a large part in your lab duties.  Beyond the lab aspect, you will need to write reports on your findings and develop means of containment within the community.  You may also be asked to collaborate with other public health departments in addressing interventions and containment, so cooperative work will be a necessity both within and without the lab setting.

Education And Training

To become a public health microbiologist, you will require at least a four year degree.  Specialty field of biology, chemistry, and physical or lab sciences are all considered acceptable majors for this position.  Further training in genetics, molecular microbiology, and bacteriology are definite advantages, and some municipalities will require a certain amount of training in these fields. 

Graduate and post graduate degrees can make getting a job as a public health microbiologist easier, and the higher your education, the more likely you are to be in a higher pay range.  This can also be applicable for advancement, but even if you have just a four year degree, you will still be able to move up in your career.  For this field, continuing education is generally required, as you will need to stay up to date on any new findings concerning microbes and disease trends

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You will need a minimum of 6 months training in a Public Health Laboratory in order to be considered for a career as a public health microbiologist.  This may be offered as an internship, although some schools work in cooperation with local and state health departments to offer this training as part of the course work.  Along with this experience, some states require that you pass a certification examination, even to work on the local level.  Once you are certified, your continuing education credits will usually keep this designation current.

The current median pay for a public health microbiologist is around $66,000 annually, although it can be slightly higher or lower depending upon educational background and experience.  This translates to around $31 per hour, so even a part time position offers lucrative rewards.  It is expected that the demand for people to fill this position will grow by about 7% over the next ten years, with a comparable growth in salary rates as well.  This makes entering a career as a public health microbiologist not only a secure position, but one that can offer advancement and rewards in serving the community.

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