Microbiologists study the growth and characteristics of microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, to increase scientific knowledge and to discover how they affect human beings. As with most scientists, they normally require a Ph.D. to perform independent research or teach at colleges and universities. However, undergraduate holders of microbiology degrees may still earn salaries in some entry-level positions.
The median salary for undergraduate microbiologists was $60,000 per year, as of May 2011, according to the survey of bachelor’s degree salaries by Georgetown University. The 25th percentile made an annual $37,000 and the 75th percentile received $84,000 year. Only 5 percent of all biology and life sciences majors chose this degree. The median annual wage for all undergrads in this group was $50,000, with the lowest quarter making $35,000 and the highest quarter earning $75,000. About 94 percent of the undergrads were employed after college, with 81 percent working full-time.
Although about 62 percent of undergraduate microbiologists were female, women had lower median earnings of $55,000 per year. The remaining male undergraduates made a median annual salaray of $68,000. This compared to the 55 percent of undergraduates in life sciences, who earned a median $45,000 yearly. Their male counterparts received $57,000 per year.
About 53 percent of undergraduate microbiologists obtained graduate degrees, which raised income by about 67 percent. This put the median income for master’s degree holders at $100,200 per year, with the 25th percentile making $61,790 annually and the 75th percentile earning $140,280 yearly. Those who decided to pursue Ph.D.s could look forward to full microbiologist salaries at a median $65,230 annually, as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 25th percentile earned $47,660 per year, while the 75th percentile made $90,150 annually.
According to the BLS, job growth for microbiologists will be 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, compared to the 14 percent predicted for all jobs in all industries, and near the 16 percent predicted for all life, physical and social science occupations. The development of new medicines to treat a growing and aging population will fuel the demand, especially in pharmaceutical and biotechnology research. A desire for clean energy will provide employment for those who specialize in alternative energy sources such as biofuels and biomass. In agriculture, microbiologists will help to create genetically engineered crops with greater yields.