Microbiologists: Salary Overview
Microbiologists study bacteria, viruses, and other parasites and microorganisms in order to understand how these organisms live, develop, and interact with the environment.
A microbiologist’s job description typically includes planning and conducting research, performing experiments in the laboratory, supervising the work of other laboratory staff, isolating and maintaining cultures of bacteria and other microorganisms, monitoring the effect of microorganisms on the environment and other organisms, preparing reports, and presenting their findings to other scientists and the public.
Responsibilities vary depending on the microbiologist’s specialty.
Bacteriologists study bacteria, virologists study the structure and development of viruses, while mycologists study the properties of fungi.
Parasitologists study parasites and may study the outbreak of parasitic diseases.
Other microbiologists specialize in clinical microbiology, industrial microbiology, public health, or environmental microbiology.
Microbiologists typically conduct experiments in laboratories, offices, or industrial settings but they may also conduct onsite visits to collect samples.
Those who work with dangerous organisms must follow very strict safety and sanitation procedures.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for microbiologists was $75,650 in May 2019 which means that half the workers in this occupation earned less than this amount and half earned more.
Salaries vary based on a wide range of factors, including experience, skills, education, specialty, and industry of employment.
The top 10 percent made more than $133,280 a year while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,500.
The 25th percentile for this profession is $54,760 which means that most microbiologists (75 percent) earned more than this amount.
Microbiologist Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, microbiologists held about 21,700 jobs in the United States in 2018.
Their biggest employer was the field of research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, a sector that employed 24% of all microbiologists.
About 15 percent of all microbiologists worked for pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers and 14 percent worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools.
The federal government hired 11 percent of all microbiologists while 7 percent of them worked for state governments.
Microbiologists’ biggest employer, the field of scientific research and development services paid them, on average, with $98,220.
Microbiologists who worked for the federal executive branch earned, on average, $113,060 while those employed by pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers made around $76,960, on average, per year.
The average annual wage was $62,920 for microbiologists who worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools and $59,130 per year for those who worked in the field of architectural, engineering, and related services.
The highest average annual salary was reported by microbiologists who worked in the federal executive branch.
Education and experience are also important in determining a microbiologist’s salary.
Having a Ph.D. in the field you wish to specialize in may help you get a higher-paying job.
In our day and age, a microbiologist’s expertise is very valuable and they will continue to be needed to develop vaccines, antibiotics, and other new medicine and treatments.
Other industries where microbiologists’ services will be in-demand are food producers and chemical companies which will have to make sure that their products are safe and comply with the company’s quality standards.
Job openings for microbiologists will also occur in agriculture where they will be needed to help develop genetically engineered crops.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for microbiologists is expected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Job prospects are expected to be good for microbiologists, especially for those who hold a Ph.D. and want to start a career in researching new treatments, new sources of energy, or new crops.
A job in research can be well-remunerated especially if you’re an experienced scientist.
However, because much of the basic research is funded by the government through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation or by private companies, job prospects and wages for microbiologists depend upon budgetary decisions and private capital availability.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Microbiologists. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.