Microbiologists work in almost every industry—from food, agriculture and pollution control to biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and health. They also work in government agencies and labs, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, water treatment facilities, and hospitals. And they work in education as teachers and researchers.
Because there are so many different species of microbes out there and they do such very different things, no one microbiologist can study everything! That's why people who become microbiologists usually focus on a particular microbe or research area. Here are a few examples:
Some microbiologists focus on bacteria and how they help or hurt us. These scientists are called bacteriologists (back-tear-ee-ahl-oh-gists).
Some specialize in viruses and how they infect cells. These scientists are called virologists (vir-ahl-oh-gists).
Some microbiologists track down outbreaks of disease to learn what caused them and if we're facing a deadly new microbe. They are called epidemiologists (ep-ih-deem-ee-ahl-oh-gists).
Some study how the body defends itself against microbial invaders. They are called immunologists (ih-mew-nawl-oh-gists).
This is only a partial listing of the many different things microbiologists do. If you really want to get a good sense of what microbiologists do, you should talk to some of them. You might start with your science teacher or scientists in your area (your teacher or parents may be able to help you find some and set up interviews). Or you could read the interviews with microbiologists we've posted on this site.