Public Health Microbiologist

Study microorganisms in an effort to prevent epidemics.

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$38,000 – $125,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Public Health Microbiologists do?

A Public Health Microbiologist is a Soldier in the battle for public health, as it’s his or her job to help detect and prevent outbreaks of illness and disease in local communities. You see, not all wars are fought with guns and ammo, and the front lines aren’t always populated by foxholes, tanks, and troops. When the enemy is a disease, they’re littered instead with microscopes, slides, and blood samples. In that case, the battlefield isn’t a desert or jungle in some faraway nation; it’s a public health laboratory in your own backyard.

As a Public Health Microbiologist, you’re employed in that public health laboratory — a government laboratory that provides states and municipalities with clinical diagnostic testing, disease surveillance, environmental and radiological testing, emergency response support, research, and other health laboratory services. You’re an expert in pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing microorganisms. Rather than a Doctor who treats diseases, however, you’re a Scientist who detects them.

Basically, you’re paid as a Public Health Microbiologist to play hide-and-seek with microbes for the purpose of stopping contagia and preventing contagion. In terms of daily duties, that means performing biological and chemical tests on bodily fluids, as well as environmental substances such as food, air, water, and waste. You also keep records and reports on examinations, and interpret and communicate lab test results.

In addition, you advise Physicians, Nurses, and others on specimen collection, transport, and containment. And on top of all that, you train other laboratory personnel.

Like a Detective, your job is basically finding microbiological suspects and proving that they’ve committed crimes so they can be locked up to the benefit of would-be victims and the communities they live in.

Should I be a Public Health Microbiologist?

You should have a master's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Flexible: You're open to change and think variety is the spice of life.
  • Logical Thinker: You take a step-by-step approach to analyze information and solve problems.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

  • How to Become a
    Public Health Microbiologist

    We recommend at least a Master's degree. Start by getting your Bachelor's. Check out these schools offering Public Health Microbiologist-related education!
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