Microbiologist Kaimātai Koiora Mororiki

Microbiologists study organisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae or fungi, and the effects they have on plants, animals and humans. They also develop products and procedures to benefit humans or the environment.

Microbiologists may do some or all of the following:

  • analyse and/or perform tests and experiments on micro-organisms
  • identify and characterise micro-organisms, including those that cause disease
  • develop and use micro-organisms for the production of fuels and chemicals
  • develop micro-organisms and the products of their growth for use in vaccines and medicines
  • grow micro-organisms to use in food such as yoghurt and cheese
  • identify micro-organisms that may pollute food, water and the environment
  • find ways for micro-organisms to help humans
  • prepare reports and papers, and present results
  • provide technical guidance to assistants.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for microbiologists includes laboratory work, or medical laboratory experience if working in a medical setting. 

Personal Qualities

Microbiologists need to be:

  • patient, persistent and inquiring
  • analytical, accurate and careful
  • motivated
  • innovative
  • able to communicate complex ideas simply.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for microbiologists includes laboratory work, or medical laboratory experience if working in a medical setting. 

Subject Recommendations

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. NCEA Level 3 in biology, maths, chemistry and physics are recommended.

Microbiologists can earn around $35K-$75K per year per year.

Microbiologists first work as technicians or assistants during university or after graduating. As they gain lab and computer skills, they may progress to senior positions, or they may undertake postgraduate study to specialise in a particular research area.

Microbiologists who have earned a PhD typically have more control over their research projects. Because research funding is limited, they may work on a variety of fixed-term projects for different employers, but within their study area. After developing their research and communication skills, they may become project leaders.

Project leaders spend less time in the lab, and more time seeking funding for projects, and managing people, processes and resources.

Some microbiologists may also move into medical sales, policy work, teaching, journalism, law or business.

Microbiologist