Microbiologist Kaimātai Koiora Mororiki

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

Microbiologists may do some or all of the following:

  • analyse and 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 vaccines, medicines, fuels and chemicals  
  • grow micro-organisms to use in food such as yoghurt and cheese
  • identify micro-organisms that may pollute food, water and the environment
  • prepare reports and papers, and present results
  • provide technical guidance to assistants.


Useful Experience

Useful experience for microbiologists includes laboratory work.

Personal Qualities

Microbiologists need to be:

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


Microbiologists need to have:

  • knowledge of molecular biology and genetics, biochemistry and chemistry
  • practical skills for performing experiments and operating scientific equipment
  • knowledge of laboratory hazards and proper safety procedures
  • skill in analysing and interpreting research results and other information
  • problem-solving skills
  • presentation and writing skills for reports or grant proposals
  • maths and computer skills.



  • usually work regular business hours, but may need to work evenings and weekends
  • work in laboratories and offices, but may also work in the field collecting samples or performing field trials
  • may travel locally and overseas to attend workshops and conferences.

Microbiologists can earn around $47K-$75K per year.

Pay for microbiologists varies depending on qualifications and experience.

  • Microbiologists with a Bachelor's degree working at technician level usually start on minimum wage to $55,000 a year.
  • Microbiologists with a Master's degree usually earn between $55,000 and $75,000.
  • Senior microbiologists with a PhD can earn between $75,000 and $130,000 or more. 

Source: BIOTechNZ, 2019.

Microbiologists may progress to senior positions or project leadership, or move into medical sales, policy work or teaching.

With further training they may specialise in:

  • bacteriology
  • environmental/medical microbiology
  • food/industrial microbiology 
  • parasitology
  • virology.  

Years Of Training

3-9 years of training usually required.

To become a microbiologist you need to have a Bachelor of Science majoring in microbiology, biotechnology, biochemistry or molecular biology. 

A postgraduate qualification, such as a Master's degree or Doctorate, is usually required for research-based positions.