The world around us is full of organisms, like bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa, too small to be seen with the naked eye. A microbiologist immerses himself in the study of these microbes that live in widely diverse habitats, ranging from hot springs, to the human body, to the depth of the ocean. Microbiology is a valuable science because microbes affect every aspect of life both negatively and positively.
Most people know that microbes are the causes of infections and diseases, but don’t realize that exploiting microbes brings us many benefits. If microbes can make you ill, they can also be used in antibiotics that we use as treatment. And although many micro-organisms cause food spoilage, others are essential for its production. Without yeast, there would be no beer or bread and we would not be able to make yoghurt without lactic acid bacteria.
Microbiology is an interdisciplinary science – About the course:
Microbiology, by its very nature, is an interdisciplinary science that can provide an excellent background for teaching science at all levels of education. Students can pursue microbiology from the undergraduate level. After completing 10+2 with physics, chemistry, botany and zoology, with at least 50 percent one can be admitted to a B Sc microbiology course.
For a PG degree in microbiology, one can pursue an M Sc in microbiology with a B Sc in biological sciences. There is also an option of choosing any specialization from a list that comprises medical microbiology, food microbiology, industrial microbiology, bioinformatics, microbial technology, clinical research bio-chemistry, forensic science, hospital management or even hotel administration.
The M Sc program in microbiology is offered by many universities in India. Students are admitted on the basis of their academics. However, few universities conduct written entrance examinations for selecting candidates.
The employment sphere for microbiologists is large and expanding rapidly. Today, microbiologists find jobs in research and development labs of government and private hospitals, research organizations, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage and chemical industries.
Microbiologists in research institutes and universities study the ecology of microbes in different habitats. Microbial activities can be harnessed to avoid or minimize environmental pollution. Microbes can also be used in production processes, for instance to replace harmful chemicals in dye production and leather processing. Most students after completion of their master’s degree, go abroad to pursue a PhD and postdoctoral fellowship after acquiring scholarships through the GRE and TOEFL. After completion of a PhD, they are usually employed by foreign universities or R&D wings of pharmaceutical companies.
There are opportunities in formulation research, analytical development and clinical research and in new drug discovery… microbiologists can also become faculty members in universities and colleges, or teachers in schools. For college teaching, a master’s degree is acceptable, along with the CSIR-NET qualification, but a doctorate opens more avenues.
There is also scope at the university level for teaching and research, with good promotion prospects in non-academic research institutes, private industry and government agencies that are constantly looking for a PhD with SET-NET qualifications.
Besides the options mentioned above, self employment is also a very good option. Microbiologists can set up microbiology labs of their own, and can contribute to diagnosing diseases, including showing researchers the way.
Microbiologists employed in government and private organizations get lucrative remuneration, along with perks and other benefits.
In India, professionals in the pharma and biotech labs get starting salaries between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 a month. After two to three years of experience, this salary is doubled. Those working in government organizations or research labs also get good packages, with other benefits thrown in. Junior research fellows who work on various projects are given monthly fellowships of Rs 12,000, while senior research fellows start at Rs 15,000.
The scope for microbiologists is better in developed countries like the US, UK, Australia, France and Germany. In these countries, those engaged in research work get around $30,000 to $50,000 a year.