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MicrobiologistAlternative titles

Kaimātai Koiora Mororiki

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Virologist
Parasitologist
Food/Industrial Microbiologist
Environmental/Medical Microbiologist
Bacteriologist

Microbiologists study microscopic organisms (living things too small to be seen without a microscope), such as bacteria, viruses, algae or fungi, and the effects they have on plants, animals and humans. They use this knowledge to develop products and procedures to benefit humans or the environment.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733

What are the chances of getting a job?

Average

Chances of getting a job as a microbiologist are average – while opportunities are limited for those doing fundamental research, there is a shortage of microbiologists doing applied research.

Limited opportunities for microbiologists doing fundamental research

Opportunities are limited for microbiologists doing basic or fundamental research, rather than research that is applied to practical areas. This is mainly because there is less funding for fundamental research, primarily due to ongoing effects of the 2008-2009 recession. 

Microbiologist numbers fell by about 26% between 2010 and 2012, according to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates.

Shortage of microbiologists doing applied research

Most microbiology funding is going to applied research, which involves developing technologies and products such as new vaccines or foods. However, there are not enough microbiologists to fill all positions.

As a result, microbiologist appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled microbiologists from overseas to work in New Zealand.

Types of employers varied

Microbiologists may work for:

  • Crown research institutes (CRIs)
  • universities
  • medical and veterinary laboratories
  • hospitals
  • biotechnology companies
  • pastoral product manufacturing companies
  • food manufacturing companies
  • private research institutes
  • breweries.

Sources

  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘2003-2012 Occupation Data’ (prepared for Careers New Zealand), accessed September 2013. 
  • NZBIO, 'Annual Report 2012', accessed September 2013, (www.nzbio.org.nz).
  • Slim, G, CEO, NZBIO, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2013.
  • Statistics New Zealand, 'Bioscience Survey: 2011', accessed September 2013, (www.stats.govt.nz).

Other vacancy websites

 

Progression and specialisations

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.

How many people are doing this job?

Year 2012
102
Year 2011
123
Year 2010
139
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.

Tina Summerfield pressing buttons on a piece of laboratory equipment

Chances are best for microbiologists in applied research

Updated 16 Oct 2014