clinical microbiologist
Science, mathematics and statistics

Career outlook for microbiologist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would study micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae. Your work could be used to prevent diseases, make new medicines or grow more food.

You could work in a variety of different areas.

If you work in healthcare as a clinical microbiologist you would identify pathogens – which produce diseases – and work out how to protect communities from the spread of infection.

Or you could do research and development in different areas, including:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Food
  • Agriculture
  • Environment
  • Education
  • Biotechnology

Depending on the industry you would:

  • Monitor, identify and help to control infectious diseases
  • Use molecular biology techniques to develop and test new medicines and treatments for disease
  • Investigate the potential of micro-organisms to produce antibodies, vaccines, hormones and other biotechnology products
  • Assess the use of microbes for use in producing food , protecting crops and improving soil fertility
  • Check the quality and safety of manufactured food and medical products
  • Use micro-organisms to control pollution and break down toxic substances
  • Develop ways to dispose of waste safely

You would also present the findings of your research, supervise the work of support staff and do administrative work.

If you work as a researcher and lecturer in a university or teaching hospital, you would tutor, mentor and supervise students.

Working conditions


You would usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. For some jobs you may need to work an on-call rota.


The majority of your work will take place in a laboratory, and you would wear protective clothing to prevent contamination.


There may be some travel involved in your work, for example, to attend scientific meetings and conferences.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Working with technology
  • Innovative
  • Problem solving
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Sorting
  • Taking initiative
  • Analysing
  • Understanding

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Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.


You'd need a degree in microbiology (SCQF level 9/10), or another degree with a microbiology focus. Employers may expect a postgraduate qualification and relevant work experience. 

To enter a microbiology degree (SCQF level 9/10) usually requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers at BBBB or above. Some courses require qualifications in one sitting.

Entry to a postgraduate course (SCQF level 11) typically requires an honours degree in microbiology or biological sciences. Some universities offer an integrated master's which combines a degree and master's qualification over five years.

Useful subjects

  • English (required by many courses)
  • Maths  (required by many courses)
  • Science subjects, in particular biology or human biology  (required by many courses) 
  • Technologies
  • Social subjects 

Helpful to have

Microbiology is a competitive field. Many employers look for candidates with work experience. 

You could complete a Foundation Apprenticeship in Laboratory Science (SCQF Level 6) while you're still at school. 

Some degree courses provide work placements, or you could approach a company yourself.