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Careers & Internships

Appointments for career counseling can be scheduled through the Career Center at http://career.ucla.edu/Students/CareerCounseling.aspx

Numerous internships can be found on the Career Center website at http://career.ucla.edu/Students/BruinViewAndOtherJobSearchWebsites

What can I do with a degree in Microbiology?

Careers in Microbiology can be as diverse as the microbial world. With so many current advances in the field of microbiology and molecular genetics, the door is wide open for graduates with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees.  Preparation for advanced degrees is certainly one aspect of the Major, but opportunities await as research assistants, quality control managers, production managers, and sales representatives in biotechnology & pharmaceutical industries.

Other areas, such as public health, management, teaching, forensics & law enforcement, bioethics, bioinformatics, and patent law, are examples of the variety of career opportunities for microbiologists.

What about an advanced degree?

A doctoral degree (Ph.D.) is necessary for a career in research.  Ph.D. recipients can go into either academia or industry.  Teaching science at the college level (i.e. community college) often requires a doctoral degree.

A Master’s Degree is not necessary for admission into a Ph.D. program, however, the demand for Master’s level microbiologists in industry is on the rise, according to Science’s annual careers issue.  The Science article indicates that a Master’s can provide advanced training, while maintaining a “flexibility sometimes lost with a Ph.D.” ("Career" 1022)

The Peterson’s Guide provides an in-depth resource on graduate programs.  They give basic background on hundreds of different graduate programs, lists their faculty and their credentials, and gives contact information.

How about professional schools?

There are several different kinds of health professions that provide advanced training.  Medical school is, of course, the obvious one, but there are several other types of programs that train students for patient care on various levels, including:

  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Public Health
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Pharmacy
  • Nursing
  • Physicians Assistant
  • Physical Therapy
  • Optometry
  • Osteopathic Medicine
  • Chiropractic Medicine
  • Podiatry

[Source: UCLA Preprofessional Advising Office, 1999]

What is “Biotechnology”?

Biotechnology is defined as “the aspect of technology concerned with the application of biological and engineering data to problems relating to man and the machine.” (qtd. in Ericksen 10)  The types of companies that fall under “biotechnology” include pharmaceuticals, genetic engineering, and agribusiness.  Jobs in the biotech/pharmaceutical field can range from research & development, quality assurance, and production to sales and marketing, human resources, and management.  The skills sought by these companies are precisely the ones taught in the Microbiology Major: biochemistry, molecular genetics, immunology, microbiology.

For more on careers in the biological sciences, investigate the following sites:









Links to Biotech Companies

What if I like molecular microbiology, but can’t see myself spending my life at a lab bench?

With advances in technology, come new applications of such technology.  There are several fields available where the background this major offers can be extremely useful, if not a necessity.


Teachers are amongst the most important professionals in our society.  Science educators in the K-12 schools are in short supply.  Teaching at the elementary and high school levels can be rewarding, as it gives you the opportunity to expose a new generation of students to exciting discoveries in science.

UCLA offers a new special program to undergraduates in the life and physical sciences to earn their teaching credentials simultaneously with their Bachelor’s degrees.  For more information on the Science Education Program, contact Dr. Arlene A. Russell, russell@chem.ucla.edu

Teach for America is an Americorps project that allows recent graduates to receive practical teaching experience in inner city and rural K-12 schools.  New teachers participate in a training program before being assigned to various schools throughout the country.  For more information, click here: http://www.teachforamerica.org/.


According to Bioplanet, a website devoted to this new discipline, bioinformatics is the application of computer technology to the management of biological information.  This emerging field uses computers to gather, store, analyze and integrate biological and genetic information which can then be applied to gene-based drug discovery and development.  ("What is", 4).  Find out more about Bioinformatics at this website:

   Law and Bioethics:

There is an increasing awareness of a need for intellectual property (patent) attorneys with knowledge of the molecular sciences.  This is currently a burgeoning legal arena that is attracting more and more life science degree holders.

Another emerging field, bioethics is "the study of moral issues in the fields of medical treatment and research.  The term is also sometimes used more generally to describe ethical issues in the life and the distribution of scarce medical resources.  The professional fields that deal with ethical issues in medicine include medicine, nursing, law, sociology, philosophy, and theology, though medical ethics is also recognized as its own discipline" ("Bioethics", 1).  For more on the subject, see http://www.ethics.ubc.ca/brynw/jobs.html

   Forensics & Law Enforcement:

Another increasingly popular area of interest involves forensic science.  "Medical detectives" use molecular biology techniques to assist law enforcement agencies in solving crimes.  The strong background provided by the Microbiology Major provides excellent preparation for careers in molecular crime solving.  Find out more at http://www.thename.org/career/career.htm

   Government Employment:

Federal, state, and local government has many opportunities for microbiologists, particularly in the area of public health.  Microbiologists are also needed in various areas such as Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Corps of Engineers, and the armed forces.

The Federal government posts job listings throughout the country at their website: http://www.jobsfed.com/

What about internships?

Internships provide a great opportunity to obtain practical laboratory experience, as well as gain a foothold onto future opportunities.  Internships may be sponsored by academic institutions, private industry, or government agencies.  Listed below are some links to internship sites.

http://www.sacnas.org/fellow.html — (An exhaustive list of summer programs, along with many scholarships/fellowships.)

http://www.yale.edu/necuse/ — A Guide to Summer Research Opportunities For Undergraduate Students In Science And Engineering—an excellent site!

http://www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/reu/start.htm — National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) lists hundreds of summer programs.

http://www.training.nih.gov/student/index.html — National Institutes of Health Summer Internship Program for Biomedical Research - they accept 800-1000 undergraduate students each summer.

http://www.hhmi.org/grants/undergraduate/overview/ — Howard Hughes Medical Institute - Click on Student Research. The site features a search engine allowing you to search by year in school, location, and scientific interest.)

http://www.faseb.org/ascb/commit/mac/summer98.html — Listing of Undergraduate Biology Summer Science Programs.)

Works Cited

  1. “Bioethics for Beginners.”  University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics.  1997.  Online.  Internet.  Available: http://www.med.upenn.edu/~bioethic/outreach/bioforbegin/index1.html.
  2. “Career Opportunities and Graduate Programs for BS/MS Scientists.” 1998.  Advertising supplement.  Science 281:1002-1046.
  3. Ericksen, Anne Baye.  “Biotechnology Comes of Age.”  1998.  MS/PHD, 10-12.
  4. “What is Bioinformatics?”  Bioplanet.  1999.  Online.  Internet.  Available: http://www.bioplanet.com/whatis.html.