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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.

  • Avg. Salary $92,613.00
  • Avg. Wage $48.26
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed 2,700
  • In Demand High
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) 
  • 2016 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 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

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.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
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
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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 and Specialist Physician occupational profiles.

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.

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 31, 2019


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 [pdf]. 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:

  • At least 3 years of acceptable work experience
  • A bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctoral degree in biological sciences from an approved educational institute, or equivalent
  • 3 letters from professional referees (preferably, at least 1 from a Professional Biologist)

For official, detailed information about registration requirements, visit 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 in Canada? and ASPB.

To learn about certification for internationally educated biologists, see Biologist Registration Process.

Contact Details

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists
370, 105 12 Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta T2G 1A1

Call: 403-264-1273

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.

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 (pdf) 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.

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.

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.

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 $23.08 $53.84 $35.12 $32.21
Overall $32.45 $67.40 $48.26 $50.11
Top $36.06 $110.04 $65.88 $62.26

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.

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.

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 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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