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Microbiologists study the growth and characteristics of micro-organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, and how they interact with the environment. Microbiologists develop medical and industrial applications in fields such as the food processing industry.

Also Known As

Bacteriologist, Biological Scientist, Immunologist, Mycologist, Parasitologist, Research Scientist, Virologist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 2121.2: Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists

2006 NOC-S

  • C021: Biologists and Related Scientists

2011 NOC

  • 2121: Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC

  • 2121: Biologists and related scientists
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Microbiologists study the biochemical, physiological, and genetic aspects of micro-organisms, and how they interact. In general, they:

  • Help develop hazard assessments of planned work with micro-organisms to protect staff from exposure and the environment from accidental release
  • Work in or create aseptic conditions
  • Study human, animal or plant diseases caused by micro-organisms
  • Conduct experiments to isolate and grow cultures of micro-organisms under controlled conditions
  • Transfer micro-organisms from one culture medium to another without contaminating samples
  • Isolate, analyze, and genetically manipulate nucleic acids, proteins, and other substances produced by micro-organisms
  • Perform tests on water, food and the environment to detect harmful micro-organisms and to control sources of pollution and contamination
  • Perform tests on clinical samples to detect and characterize pathogens
  • Observe, identify and classify micro-organisms
  • Isolate and genetically modify micro-organisms involved in breaking down pollutants
  • Develop genetically modified microbes for use in the production of genetically engineered biological products (proteins) or for gene transfer

Microbiologists use a range of specialized equipment. Depending on the task, they could be working with incubator-shakers, fermenters, autoclaves, light and electron microscopes, epifluorescence or confocal microscopes. Other applications may call for centrifuges, gas chromatographs, high-pressure liquid chromatographs, mass spectrometry, electrophoresis units, thermocyclers, DNA sequencers, fluorescence-activated cell sorters, or phosphorimagers.

Fields of study are likewise wide ranging. They can include:

  • Bacteriology in general or a particular aspect of bacteriology, such as public health bacteriology, pharmaceutical bacteriology, hospital or clinical bacteriology
  • Environmental microbiology, including pollutant bioremediation
  • Food microbiology
  • Biotechnology (for more information, see the Biotechnologist occupational profile)
  • Immunology (immune reactions in humans or animals)
  • Medical or clinical microbiology
  • Microbial ecology (for related information, see the Ecologist occupational profile)
  • Molecular microbiology (how bacteria or viruses function at the molecular level)
  • Eukaryotic microbiology (fungi, parasites or protozoa)
  • Virology

Medical microbiologists help scientists and physicians diagnose, prevent, and treat infections in animals and humans by investigating:

  • How organisms cause disease and their role in disease processes
  • Factors contributing to the occurrence of disease in a population
  • How epidemics can be controlled
  • The identity and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Microbiologists in the food, dairy and brewing industries may be involved in quality control. There, they propose sound laboratory and manufacturing practices.

Work in microbiology is often interdisciplinary. Microbiologists may work closely with chemists, biochemists, geneticists, pathologists, physicians, environmental scientists, engineers, veterinarians, or geologists.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Some microbiologists, particularly those in the environmental, agricultural, and veterinary sectors, may work outdoors in performing tasks such as obtaining samples. But most work is done indoors in a lab or with a computer.

Microbiologists must understand and follow detailed procedures. The pressure of having to meet project deadlines can be stressful.

Chemical injury or exposure to infection from pathogens is a routine risk, so safety procedures are a must. Preventive inoculations for diseases are not uncommon for medical microbiologists. Microbiologists working with human pathogens and toxins are required to self-monitor their health. They must clearly indicate their profession and work activities when entering into a medical consultation.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists

2006 NOC: 2121.2

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in synthesizing information to study the effects and control of human, plant and animal pathogens and toxins


Interest in precision working with instruments to conduct clinical and laboratory studies to test, evaluate and screen drugs and pharmaceuticals, and to conduct molecular and biochemical studies and experiments into genetic expression, gene manipulation and recombinant DNA technology


Interest in consulting to advise on issues related to the development of new practices and products at the cellular and molecular level; may supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Microbiologists need:

  • Persistence in the search for answers to complex questions
  • Patience
  • An aptitude for chemistry, biochemistry and genetics
  • Logical thinking
  • Communication skills
  • Manual dexterity
  • Attention to detail
  • An inquiring mind and a wide interest in natural phenomena

They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information to find innovative solutions to problems
  • Working with instruments and equipment that require precision
  • Directing the work of others

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC: 2121

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 25 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 29, 2021 and Feb 15, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Construction Specialization: Team player
Construction Specialization: Excellent written communication
Construction Specialization: Accurate
Attention to detail
Construction Specialization: Excellent oral communication
Tasks: Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists
Tasks: Monitor and compile research results
Work under pressure
Tasks: Conduct biostatistical data analysis using computer modelling techniques
Overtime required
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

The minimum educational requirement is a 4-year bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree in microbiology, cell biology, immunology, biochemistry or genetics with some background in chemistry. Those with a bachelor’s degree are qualified to work in the lab as assistants or technicians. A master’s degree or PhD is usually required for senior research positions. Microbiologists with a PhD can continue into post-doctoral fellowships.

Medical microbiologists involved in direct patient care must have a medical degree. For more information, see the Family Physician occupational profile.

Microbiologists who want to work in medical research laboratories or medical diagnostic laboratories should consider a B.Sc. degree in medical laboratory science or a B.Sc. plus a related 2-year diploma. Other forms of certification may be required for some positions.

Admission to graduate degree programs generally requires an acceptable average in the last 2 years of a related bachelor’s degree program.

Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

Certain professional titles or duties within this occupation are protected by provincial legislation. Requirements vary if you use these titles or perform these duties.

The related legislation is shown below. If there are multiple related legislations, select a certification heading to learn about each one.


Biologists study living organisms and apply their scientific knowledge in various fields.


Under Alberta’s Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act [pdf] and Professional Biologists Regulation [pdf], you must be a registered member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) to use the Professional Biologist title or the P. Biol. and P Biol initials.

You do not have to register if you do not call yourself a Professional Biologist.

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Biologist.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Microbiologists work for:

  • Government
  • Hospitals, colleges and universities
  • Laboratories in the food and beverage processing industries
  • Companies in the agricultural industry
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Private or provincial diagnostic laboratories
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Bioremediation companies
  • Companies in the oil industry
  • Academic publishers

Microbiologists with a B.Sc. degree may work as technologists in post-secondary, government, or industrial laboratories. An M.Sc. degree offers the possibility for professional work in the same laboratory. Those with a PhD have the option of doing research or teaching at a university. They can also manage hospital (clinical) diagnostic microbiology laboratories or advance to senior scientific appointments in government or industry.

Contract work is becoming more common for microbiologists.

Advancement depends on the size and nature of the employing organization and the microbiologist’s qualifications.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group, 79.3% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.1% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Microbiologists’ salaries vary considerably depending on responsibilities and qualifications. For example, the earnings for a technician with a B.Sc. degree will be different from a researcher with a PhD.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC: 2121
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2121 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $22.00 $55.00 $34.71 $33.00
Overall $24.00 $70.91 $46.17 $46.86
Top $26.00 $101.09 $60.62 $58.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) website:

Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) website:

ECO Canada website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2019. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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