Employment of microbiologists is projected to increase by 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. More microbiologists will be needed to apply knowledge from basic research to develop biological products and processes that improve our lives.
The development of new medicines and treatments is expected to increase the demand for microbiologists in pharmaceutical and biotechnology research. Microbiologists will be needed to research and develop new medicines and treatments, such as vaccines and antibiotics that are used to fight infectious diseases. In addition, microbiologists will be needed to help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies develop biological drugs that are produced with the aid of microorganisms.
Aside from improving our health, other areas of research and development in biotechnology are expected to provide employment growth for microbiologists. Greater demand for clean energy should increase the need for microbiologists who research and develop alternative energy sources such as biofuels and biomass. In agriculture, more microbiologists will be needed to help develop genetically engineered crops that provide greater yields and require less pesticide and fertilizer. Finally, efforts to discover new and improved ways to clean up and preserve the environment also will increase demand for microbiologists.
Most of the applied research projects that microbiologists are involved in require the expertise of scientists in multiple fields such as biochemistry, chemistry, and medicine. Microbiologists who have a broad understanding of microbiology and its relationship to other disciplines should have the best opportunities.
A large portion of basic research in microbiology depends on funding from the federal government through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Therefore, federal budgetary decisions will affect job prospects in basic research from year to year. Typically, there is strong competition among microbiologists for research funding.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition