A medical microbiologist specializes in the study of microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoa, and their potential effect and application in the medical setting. She seeks to gain knowledge about these organisms at both the molecular and cellular level, as well as studying their ecology. An important part of a microbiologist's role is to apply the knowledge she gleans to practical problems concerning medicine and disease, investigating how microorganisms can affect humans and how they might be useful to us.
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In May 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics surveyed 16,260 microbiologists working in America, including medical microbiologists, and found that the mean annual salary for the profession was $71,980, equivalent to an hourly rate of $34.61. While the top 10 percent of earners in the field received an average of $113,150 per year, the bottom 10 percent were on an annual salary of $39,150.
Salary by Industry
A medical microbiologists may find that his salary level is affected by the industry sector in which he works. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2009, the federal executive branch offered a microbiologist the highest average earnings — $97,640 — some distance above the next best-paying industry, medical and diagnostic laboratories, at $80,950. State government agencies and educational establishments were among the lowest payers: $51,840 and $50,790, respectively.
Salary by Geography
Geographical location also impacts pay levels for a medical microbiologist. Maryland is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the state which employs the largest percentage of microbiologists and offers the highest pay: $96,640. The District of Columbia is not far behind, offering an average of $94,770. Virginia and Connecticut offer similar levels of pay — $81,990 and $81,190, respectively — while Delaware only offered $65,400 per year.
Salary by Experience
According to AboutBioscience.org, recent graduates holding a bachelor's degree can expect to receive a salary of around $20,000; those who have recently completed a doctoral degree should earn approximately $40,000 annually. The median salary for a microbiologist with between five and eight years in the field is listed as $70,567, while an individual with experience of eight years or more can expect an annual salary of $79,952.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job market for biological scientists, a classification that includes medical microbiologists, will grow by 21 percent through 2018, fuelled by an expansion in the biotechnology industry. As such, medical microbiologists should continue to receive competitive pay rates in the immediate future.