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Microbiologist

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

Also Known As

Bacteriologist, Biological Scientist, 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

2021 NOC

  • 21110: Biologists and related scientists

2023 OaSIS

  • 21110.02: Microbiologists and cell and molecular biologists
Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2024

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 sterile 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.

Microbiologists work in wide-ranging fields of study, including:

  • Bacteriology in general or a particular aspect of bacteriology, such as public health bacteriology, pharmaceutical bacteriology, and 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, meaning how bacteria or viruses function at the molecular level
  • Eukaryotic microbiology, or the study of fungi, parasites, or protozoa
  • Virology

Medical and clinical microbiologists help physicians and allied health-care workers diagnose, prevent, and treat infections in animals and humans by:

  • Overseeing and leading a clinical microbiology lab in a hospital, a private or public health lab, or an industrial lab
  • Providing clinical consultation to physicians from a wide range of specialties, such as family health, critical care, emergency medicine, and respirology
  • Providing support to allied health programs that use microbiology services to prevent and control infection, practice antimicrobial stewardship, or provide pharmaceutical or public health services
  • Investigating how organisms cause disease, or researching factors that contribute to the occurrence and spread of diseases in populations
  • Researching how epidemics can be controlled, and identifying strains of micro-organisms that have become resistant to antibiotics

Some medical and clinical microbiologists work as university professors, where their duties may include:

  • Leading and collaborating in research projects into, for example, the study of microbial factors in disease, antibiotic / antimicrobial resistance, and the development of new tests to identify microbes
  • Teaching students about microbiology and topics related to infectious diseases
  • Sitting on industry and government advisory boards, journal editorial boards, and professional societies

Microbiologists in the food, dairy, and brewing industries may work in quality control, where they propose safe laboratory and manufacturing practices.

Work in microbiology is often interdisciplinary. Microbiologists may work closely with:

  • Chemists and biochemists
  • Geneticists
  • Pathologists
  • Physicians and nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Infection-control practitioners
  • Laboratory technologists
  • Public health teams
  • Environmental scientists
  • Engineers
  • Veterinarians
  • Geologists
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2024
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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

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

Chemical injury or exposure to infection from pathogens is a routine risk, so safety procedures are a must. Medical microbiologists must often receive preventive inoculations. Microbiologists working with human pathogens and toxins must carefully self-monitor their health. When seeking a medical consultation, they must clearly indicate their profession and work activities.

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
INNOVATIVE

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

OBJECTIVE

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

DIRECTIVE

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

Abilities

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, 2024

Microbiologists need:

  • Persistence in their search for answers to complex questions
  • Patience
  • An aptitude for chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics
  • Logical thinking
  • Communication skills (written and verbal)
  • Manual dexterity
  • Attention to detail
  • An inquiring mind and a broad interest in natural phenomena
  • Leadership and team-management skills
  • Advanced knowledge of microbiology and infectious diseases
  • Time-management and organization skills
  • A commitment to the safety of coworkers and the public
  • A commitment to ongoing professional development

They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information to find innovative solutions to problems
  • Working with precision instruments and equipment
  • 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 35 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 29, 2021 and Jul 18, 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: Accurate
Construction Specialization: Excellent written communication
Attention to detail
Construction Specialization: Excellent oral communication
Tasks: Produce reports
Health benefits: Health care plan
Health benefits: Dental plan
Construction Specialization: Time management
Health benefits: Vision care benefits
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2024
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

The minimum educational requirement is a 4-year bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree. This could be in microbiology, cell biology, immunology, biochemistry, or genetics with some background in chemistry. A B.Sc. is the basic qualification to work as a lab assistant or lab technician. 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 (MD) and have undertaken residency training in medical microbiology. For more information, see the Family Physician occupational profile.

Clinical microbiologists involved in health-care institutions, private labs, public health, and industry must:

Microbiologists who want to work in a medical research laboratory 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, 2024
  • 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.

Biologist

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

Legislation

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, 2024

Microbiologists work for:

  • Government
  • Hospitals
  • Colleges and universities
  • Labs in the food and beverage processing industries
  • Companies in the agricultural industry
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Private or provincial diagnostic laboratories
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Bioremediation companies
  • Oil industry companies
  • Academic publishers

Microbiologists with a B.Sc. degree may work as technologists in post-secondary, government, or industrial labs. An M.Sc. degree offers the possibility of professional work in the same types of labs. Those with a PhD or MD have the option of leading research or teaching at a university. They can also manage a hospital (clinical) diagnostic microbiology lab or advance to a senior scientific appointment 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 2.6% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 44 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
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: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2024

Microbiologists’ salaries vary widely depending on responsibilities and qualifications. For example, a technician with a B.Sc. degree will earn much less than 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
$46.17
Per Hour
Average Salary
$91,023.00
Per Year
Average Hours
38.1
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
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
Starting
Overall
Top

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

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

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
32%
32%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
47%
47%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
19%
19%
Vacancy Rate
N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2024

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB) website: www.aspb.ab.ca

Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) website: www.csm-scm.org

Canadian College of Microbiologists (CCM) website: www.ccm.ca

Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (CACMID) website: www.cacmid.ca

ECO Canada website: www.eco.ca

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

Updated Mar 31, 2024. 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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