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Microbiologists study the growth and characteristics of micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites) and their interactions with their environment, and develop medical and industrial applications (for example, in the food processing industry).

  • Avg. Salary $84,998.00
  • Avg. Wage $41.93
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
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: Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists (2121.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Biologists and Related Scientists (C021) 
  • 2011 NOC: Biologists and related scientists (2121) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Microbiologist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists

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

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 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 More

Updated Mar 22, 2016

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

  • assisting supervisors and protect staff in developing hazard assessments of planned work with micro-organisms to help protect from exposure and the environment from accidental release
  • working in or creating aseptic conditions
  • studying human diseases caused by micro-organisms
  • conducting experiments to isolate and grow cultures of specific micro-organisms under controlled conditions
  • isolating, analyzing and genetically manipulating nucleic acids, proteins and other substances produced by micro-organisms
  • performing tests on water, food and the environment to detect harmful micro-organisms and control sources of pollution and contamination
  • performing tests on clinical samples to detect and characterize pathogens
  • observing, identifying and classifying micro-organisms
  • isolating and genetically modifying micro-organisms involved in breaking down pollutants
  • developing genetically modified microbes for use in the production of genetically engineered biological products (proteins) or for gene transfer.

Microbiologists use a variety of specialized equipment such as incubator-shakers, fermenters, autoclaves, light and electronic microscopes, epifluorescence and confocal microscopes, centrifuges, gas chromatographs, high-pressure liquid chromatographs, mass spectrometry, electrophoresis units, thermocyclers, fluorescence-activated cell sorters and phosphorimagers.

Microbiologists may specialize in fields such as:

  • bacteriology in general or a particular aspect of bacteriology (for example, public health bacteriology, pharmaceutical bacteriology, hospital or clinical bacteriology)
  • environmental microbiology
  • food microbiology
  • biotechnology (for more information, see the Biotechnologist occupational profile)
  • immunology (studying immune reactions in humans or animals)
  • microbial ecology (for related information, see the Ecologist occupational profile)
  • molecular microbiology (investigating how bacteria or viruses function at the molecular level)
  • eukaryotic microbiology (studying fungi, parasites or protozoa)
  • virology.

Medical microbiologists help scientists and physicians in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of 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.

Microbiologists employed in the food, dairy or brewing industries may be involved in quality control and the application of good laboratory and manufacturing practices.

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

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 22, 2016

Some microbiologists, particularly those working in environmental, agricultural and veterinary fields, work outdoors some of the time. However, most of the work is indoors in laboratories and on computers. The pressure of having to meet project deadlines can be stressful.

Following safety procedures is extremely important to avoid chemical injury or exposure to infection when working with pathogens. Preventive inoculations help to protect medical microbiologists from the risk of disease. Microbiologists working with human pathogens and toxins are required to self-monitor their health, and clearly indicate their profession and work activities when seeking medical consultations.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 22, 2016

Microbiologists need the following characteristics:

  • an inquiring mind and a wide interest in natural phenomena
  • the ability to learn quickly, think logically and persist in a search for answers to complex questions
  • good communication skills
  • manual dexterity (for transferring micro-organisms from 1 culture medium to another without contaminating samples, and for mounting and staining specimens)
  • patience
  • attention to detail (for understanding and following detailed procedures)
  • strong interest in and aptitude for chemistry, biochemistry and genetics.

They should enjoy synthesizing information to find innovative solutions to problems, working with instruments and equipment at tasks which require precision, and directing the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 22, 2016

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 who have a bachelor's degree are qualified to work as laboratory assistants or technicians. A master's degree or PhD usually is required for senior research positions. Those who have PhDs may continue their training as post-doctoral fellows.

Medical microbiologists involved in direct patient care must have a medical degree (for more information, see the Family Physician and Specialist Physician occupational profiles). Those planning to work in medical research laboratories or medical diagnostic laboratories may take a B.Sc. degree in medical laboratory science, or a B.Sc. degree plus a related 2-year diploma. For some positions, other forms of certification also may be required.

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.

University of Lethbridge

Related Education

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

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 22, 2016


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


Professional Biologist is a protected title under Alberta's Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act. This means that to call yourself a Professional Biologist, you must be a registered member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB). At present, you can call yourself a "biologist" if you are not a registered member of ASPB.

What You Need

Membership requires: (1) at least 3 years of acceptable work experience, (2) a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctoral degree in biological sciences from an approved educational institute, or equivalent and (3) 2 letters from professional referees (preferably, at least 1 from a Professional Biologist). For official, detailed information about registration requirements, visit the ASPB website or contact the ASPB.

Working in Alberta

Biologists who are registered and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for registration in Alberta if registered biologists in the 2 jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see What if I am already certified in another province or territory? and the Alberta regulatory authority (below).

To find more information on the certification process for internationally educated biologists, see Biologist Registration Process on the website.

Contact Details

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists
370, 105 12 Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2G 1A1
Phone: 403-264-1273

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 22, 2016

Microbiologists who have B.Sc. degrees may work as technologists in post-secondary, government or industrial laboratories. Those who have M.Sc. degrees may work as professionals in the same laboratory settings. Microbiologists who have PhDs may conduct research, teach in universities, manage hospital (clinical) diagnostic microbiology laboratories or advance to senior scientific appointments in government or industry.

Microbiologists work for the following types of organizations:

  • municipal, provincial and federal governments
  • hospitals, colleges and universities
  • laboratories in the food and beverage processing industries
  • companies in the agricultural industry
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • diagnostic laboratories
  • biotechnology firms
  • bioremediation companies
  • companies in the oil industry
  • academic publishers.

Contract work is becoming more common in this occupation. Advancement opportunities depend on the size and nature of the employing organization and the microbiologist's qualifications.

Microbiologists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2121: Biologists and related scientists. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 22, 2016

Microbiologists' salaries vary considerably depending on their responsibilities and qualifications (for example, whether they have a B.Sc. degree and are working as technicians or have a PhD degree and are conducting research).

Biologists and related scientists

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $25.72 $48.08 $30.69 $25.72
Overall $31.46 $63.82 $41.93 $37.73
Top $41.28 $64.10 $54.40 $55.21

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.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

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

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 22, 2016

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists website:

Canadian Society of Microbiologists website:

ECO Canada (Environmental Careers Organization) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 17, 2016. 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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