Clinical microbiologist: job description

Clinical microbiologist: job description

Clinical microbiologists undertake scientific research into microorganisms with the aim of identifying new ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing infectious diseases.
Microbiology placements of up to ten weeks in duration are available for final year students via the Society for Applied Microbiology's 'students into work' scheme.

What does a clinical microbiologist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Clinical microbiologists study microorganisms that cause infections and diseases. They monitor and analyse microbial cultures and samples using specialist computer software and a range of identification methods and clinical trials. Typical tasks include:

  • identifying fungal, parasitic, viral and bacterial infections
  • testing the strength and virulence of microbes
  • using a variety of biochemical and molecular methods to determine organisms that cause infection
  • collaborating and liaising with healthcare professionals and industrial or clinical colleagues
  • recording, analysing and interpreting data
  • writing research papers, reports and reviews
  • undertaking work aimed at helping to prevent the spread of infections within hospitals
  • carrying out research into specific diseases
  • managing laboratories
  • supervising biomedical scientists

Typical employers of clinical microbiologists

  • Pathology departments
  • Diagnostic laboratories
  • Medical schools
  • Hospitals
  • Public Health England
  • NHS Blood and Transplant
  • Private laboratories
  • Water and waste management companies
  • Food and drink manufacturers

Vacancies attract strong competition. Opportunities are advertised online, by careers services or specialist recruitment agencies, in newspapers, in publications such as New Scientist, Science, Nature and their online equivalents and in journals published by professional institutions. Applications (particularly those to larger employers) should be made early in the academic year.

Microbiology placements of up to ten weeks in duration are available for students and recent graduates via the Society for Applied Microbiology's 'students into work' scheme.

Qualifications and training required

A 2.1 degree in a relevant subject such as biochemistry, microbiology, biology, chemistry, immunology, biomedical science, biotechnology, medical physics or genetics is required for entry. A postgraduate qualification, research work, hospital laboratory placements and paid or voluntary experience gained using relevant scientific and analytical techniques can be beneficial.

To work within the NHS, you will need to complete the scientist training programme (STP) after your degree. The application process for the STP typically starts in January.

Scotland has separate training schemes, which also involve a three year STP or an equivalent programme.

After completing the STP, you can then apply for a certificate of attainment from the Academy of Healthcare Science. This will enable you to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

In order to practise as a clinical scientist in the UK, you must be registered with the HCPC. You will automatically be eligible to apply for registration if you have completed a HCPC approved course, but you will need to pay a fee for the HCPC to process your application, plus a registration fee, which is reduced by 50% if you graduated from an approved course within the last two years.

Key skills for clinical microbiologists

  • Patience, decisiveness and meticulousness
  • Ability to work quickly and accurately
  • A logical and inquisitive mind
  • A systematic approach to tasks
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Experimental and analytical skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team

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