Just as famed French microbiologist Rene Dubos said, like many other fields of science, Microbiology might seem cold and distant from the human experience, when, in reality, it's an essential part.
Microorganisms, microbes, microbial, bacteria; these are all words that people generally shy away from, or don't even come across in life unless they're students in attendance at a science program.
While high school students may study some aspects of microbiology in their final year, to truly deepen their knowledge of this scientific discipline, university study is required.
But before we get into university and other study options, we must answer two basic questions:
What is microbiology and why is it so important?
Microbiology is the science of microorganisms, living things that are too small to view with the naked human eye. Bacteria, fungi, viruses are all microbes that this scientific field delves into.
So why is Microbiology so important? Well first, it's important to understand that microbes are extremely important to all human, animal and plant life.
They play a part in the course of most natural processes, from decomposition to fermentation.
By understanding microorganisms and their functions, that knowledge can then be applied to beneficial ends, like using microbes to fight disease or increase international food production.
Without consistent study in this field of biology, areas of human life from health care to food and agriculture would not have evolved as much as they have throughout the course of history.
The advanced knowledge of microbiologists is the key to curing disease, creating more sustainable agriculture and making food and drink safe for human consumption.
Read on to know more about what a microbiologist does, the benefits of studying in this area and the best course in Australia for students looking to get into this scientific field.
Of course, there are many types of biology and hence, biologists. Check out the different types of jobs available to biologists out there...
What a Microbiologist does
From Edward Jenner, the creator of the first smallpox vaccine, to Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin, microbiologists have been making news for their achievements for centuries.
Microbiologists are passionate about everything to do with the world of science. Day-to-day, they monitor, analyse and experiment with microbes like bacteria, fungi and algae.
The major part of people working in this field will spend most of their time in a lab, perhaps on a uni campus or at a private institution.
Because their expertise can be applied in different areas, there is a wide variety of potential employers, from food and beverage companies to government units.
Some of their daily tasks include:
- Planning and implementing clinical trials,
- Collecting organic matter from a location to use in trials and tests,
- Using materials to develop new medical treatments like vaccines,
- Publishing research reports and giving talks to peers and the public,
- Controlling and managing the health and safety standards of their lab,
- Teaching students in tertiary courses.
To excel in this field of work, there are certain skills that need to be developed over time through study and practice. The most essential are:
- Attention to minuscule detail,
- Master of IT skills,
- Being able to work independently and coordinate with a team,
If, after their study period, a graduate student possesses all of these skills as well as an advanced qualification, they're likely to be great candidates for jobs both in an international and domestic context.
A student can also get into other interesting fields such as biological engineering.
The Benefits of Studying Microbiology
To become a microbiologist with full qualifications in Australia, students must spend a long period of their lives on campus, in attendance uni.
Because of the advanced nature of this discipline of science, a Bachelor degree will only be the start of your learning program. A Master is the minimum qualification you will need, and some even go on to a Doctorate.
Before taking the plunge, it's a good idea to know exactly what a student will get out of their Microbiology course, for the duration of their studies, as well as afterwards.
If you're interested in making headline news or giving talks with thousands of people in attendance, then microbiology might not be the best option for you.
For those who would prefer to work in a more exciting outside location, wildlife biology may be a better career choice.
Because they do most of their work behind a microscope in a lab, far from the public eye, people in this field aren't likely to receive much recognition from news media unless they cure a disease!
But that shouldn't scare away students who are truly interested in pursuing this science as a career. There are so many rewarding aspects to this career, whether you work as a researcher, consultant etc.
Let's view some of the principal motivations that students might decide on a career in microbiology:
- A Growing Sector: According to Job Outlook Australia, estimates show strong growth in the number of workers in this field is expected in the next 5 years. Other than domestic opportunities, there are more and more international jobs available in places like the US or Europe.
- Conduct Valuable Research: Depending on the facilities available in their working location, research conducted by microbiologists can really be the key to solving many international problems. Imagine being part of the team that finds a solution to a health problem, like a new virus. Or making news by creating methods of cleaning polluted water!
- Understand the World on a Deeper Level: Studying microorganisms means getting in contact with the smallest parts of our world, but these microscopic materials are the key to making our world work. With every semester, every unit of study, microbiology students deepen their knowledge of our world.
- Stable Salary: The average weekly salary for a biologist working full-time in Australia is around $1,800, which is more or less the average throughout the job market. This salary is stable and can grow if you're able to advance to a managerial position.
The best programs for Microbiology in Australia
As we mentioned before, a student looking to become a Microbiologist must spend a long duration on their studies, attaining at least a Master's degree.
Remember, online Biology courses are always available on Superprof to help get through the more difficult parts of your tertiary education.
You can organise the dates that you need and the fee you'll pay directly with your tutor, as well as the location. Your tutor could come to you on campus, or give lessons online.
The first step would be to get complete a Bachelor degree in Science, with a major in Biology, and you can do this in almost any uni in Australia.
Some of the top-raked Bachelor of Science qualifications available are, as ranked by Top Universities are:
- The University of Melbourne
- The University of Queensland
- The Australian National University
- The University of Sydney
Getting into one of these courses is easiest for domestic students. All you need is a minimum ATAR of around 80.00 to 85.00, and to have completed any prerequisite units in your final year of high school.
If you're worried about not getting the ATAR you need for the course you want, contact a VCE Biology tutor for help.
They usually have a duration of 3 years full-time, with the option to extend to a four year Honours degree. The yearly fee depends on the institution but usually sits around $8,000.
International students are also accepted in the majority of these courses, as long as they can prove their academic English skills are at a sufficient level.
Choosing the right course can be difficult, so you should consider things like semester dates, the location of the campus, study units and the yearly fee to help make the right decision.
In a program like this, you will have to choose a major and minor such as Cell and Molecular Biology or Organismal Biology etc. You will also take general science units like Programming for Scientists or Quantitative Research Methods.
Once you have finished your first period of study, the next step is a Master's course. This could be a Master of Applied Science with a Specialisation in Microbiology or Biotechnology.
If you need any help throughout these courses, online Biology tutors can be helpful.
Some universities offer more diverse courses involving Microbiology, such as a Master of Infectious Disease or a Master of Public Health. These courses usually take around two years to complete.
Find a Job as a Microbiologist
Once you graduate with your Master's degree in Medical Biology or Applied Science, you'll have to ask yourself one question... What now?
Well, this is the part where all of your study and knowledge can finally be applied in a real-life context. Meaning... it's time to look for a job!
Here are some of the most common occupations for Microbiology graduates:
- Biomedical scientist,
- Medical chemist,
- Water quality scientist,
- Technical brewer.
You could also decide to change your focus and look into another field such as forensic biology
Don't forget, you're not only limited to employers that conduct scientific research. The scientific and problem-solving skills you've developed semester after semester, unit by unit of your course make you a very desirable candidate.
Your skills might make you perfect for a role as an educator, preparing and giving your own lectures on microbial infections or molecular biology.
Another option is to work in public health, educating the public and medical professionals on your field of expertise.
Becoming a microbiologist takes time and commitment, but once you're on the job, you'll realise just how varied, exciting and truly essential it is.
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