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Microbiologist, clinical

Undertakes scientific research into micro-organisms with the aim of identifying new ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing infectious diseases.

Alternative job titles for this role

  • Immunologist
  • Molecular biologist
  • Geneticist
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Toxicologist
  • Haematologist

Introduction

Clinical microbiologists study the micro-organisms that cause illness in humans and animals. They identify bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic pathogens, helping to prevent disease. Working in diagnostic laboratories and pathology departments in large hospitals and medical schools, their work focuses on investigating the causes of contagious diseases and researching new treatments for infections. Clinical microbiologists collaborate closely with health care professionals and sometimes carry out research and development projects in the areas of bacteriology, virology, and parasitology, often working in collaboration with clinical or industrial colleagues.

What the job involves

  • Plan and carry out trials
  • Track environmental microorganism development
  • Growing microbe cultures
  • Develop new pharmaceutical products, vaccines, medicines and compounds such as antiseptics
  • Collect samples from a variety of locations
  • Record, analyse and interpret data
  • Write research papers, reports and reviews
  • Keep up to date with scientific and research developments
  • Ensure that data is recorded accurately in accordance to guidelines
  • Observe high health and safety standards
  • Inspect food and drink manufacturing processes to check for possible contamination
  • Manage laboratories

How your career can develop

There is enormous scope for specialising in the area of clinical microbiology. Graduates often opt for postgraduate qualifications in areas such as:

  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Medical microbiology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Molecular biology
  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental microbiology

Why microbiology matters

Microbiologists form a key role in informing the public of the effects if medication. For instance, in 2011, one in three Irish people believed that antibiotics could cure viruses. Microbiologists have been on a drive to inform the public ever since.

Skills

  • Insatiable curiosity and detail-oriented
  • Patience, decisiveness and meticulousness
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to interact and communicate effectively with a wide range of people
  • A systematic approach to tasks
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Good interpretative skills
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Good at maths

Typical employers

  • Clinical diagnostic laboratories
  • Pathology departments in large hospitals and medical schools
  • Environmental organisations
  • Industry - food and drink, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, water and biotechnology companies
  • Forensic science laboratories
  • Publicly funded research organisations

Typical salary

  • Graduate/Starting €28,000 to €40,000
  • Senior/Specialist €50,000 to €80,000 depending on specialism and experience

Typical qualifications

A degree in a relevant science subject is normally required for entry. Clinical Microbiologists must be medical graduates and have completed higher specialist training in accredited centres and obtained membership of the Royal College of Pathologists in London or an equivalent qualification deemed to be of equal merit. To become a specialist in clinical microbiology students must be registered medical doctors. Degrees in the following areas can also act as gateways to the profession:

  • Applied biology
  • Biological sciences
  • Biology
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Microbial sciences
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular biology