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What does a Bacteriologist do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A bacteriologist conducts laboratory experiments to determine the presence, structure, and function of bacteria in a physical sample. A scientist often performs extensive research to learn about the nature of certain types of bacteria. He or she might work in a clinical setting, helping physicians make proper diagnoses and prescribe the correct treatments, or in a scientific research laboratory conducting independent research on different bacterial substances. Most experts in the field have completed master's or doctoral programs in bacteriology, biology, or genetics.

A bacteriologist who works in a private research laboratory, university, or biotechnology company might specialize in microbiology, studying samples at the cellular level, or macrobiology, investigating the effects of bacteria on larger organisms or the environment. Microbiologists might conduct experiments to better understand the structure of a certain type of bacteria and the various biological and chemical functions that take place within a sample, such as reproduction. Experts in environmental studies, macrobiology, botany, and zoology often gather field samples and conduct research to determine where bacteria comes from, how it spreads to different organisms, and any potential hazards or benefits related to its presence in an ecosystem.

A clinical bacteriologist usually works in a hospital laboratory, examining tissue or fluid samples from patients. He or she attempts to detect the presence of bacterial infections to decide which types of medication or treatment should be administered. A bacteriologist uses microscopes and other pieces of medical laboratory equipment to analyze the contents of samples, and reports his or her findings to physicians who can make official diagnoses.

A person who wants to work as a bacteriologist must typically hold a master's degree or PhD in bacteriology or a similar biological science. Many individuals work as laboratory technicians or assistants while pursuing their degrees to gain experience in the field and improve their resumes. Graduates from master's degree programs commonly find work in clinical and scientific laboratories, analyzing samples PhD-holders are often able to conduct independent research, which entails designing and conducting experiments, recording results, and publishing scientific papers about their findings.

Both clinical and research bacteriologists must have a strong understanding of chemistry, biology, and statistics to conduct accurate experiments and report reliable results. Individuals who are established in the field often pursue continuing education programs or attend lectures and conventions to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in research, equipment, and laboratory techniques. Some successful scientists choose to become professors at universities and colleges, teaching courses on bacteriology, microbiology, chemistry, and other related subjects.

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Discussion Comments

By Sinbad — On Aug 12, 2011

To me she sounds like she is a lab technician as people who work in clinical labs are part of the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of what is going on with a patient. You also talked about her looking at tissues and medical lab technicians often look under microscopes at different biopsies.

What I think is interesting, while these people have, what I feel is a lot of responsibility; they typically are reported to make 24,000 a year to 49,000 dollars a year.

By Speechie — On Aug 12, 2011

A friend of mine had a mom who worked in the hospital in a lab but her job from what I recall was to look at tissue and determine if it had lymphoma but also she was often called in after a serious accident brought people to the Emergency Room to look at the tissues to determine organ donor matches.

Is this something that a bacteriologist would do?

My friend's mom loved this work, and took a lot of pride in her work because her mom had passed away from a lymphoma, so she felt if she could do an exceptional job at looking for the lymphomas then she might be able to help detect them earlier and the person might have a better recovery.

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