The Who, What, Where of Careers:
Clinical Microbiology


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What does this person do? 

  • Recommends methods for obtaining and transporting clinical specimens that would be most helpful in diagnosing infectious diseases
  • Selects the most appropriate tests and identifies bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic agents that are likely to be contributing to infectious processes
  • Determines the susceptibility of microorganisms to various antimicrobial agents that could be used to treat infections caused by the microorganisms
  • Reports results to healthcare providers caring for patients in a clear, concise, and clinically relevant manner
  • Works with healthcare teams, including public health officials, to improve processes to diagnose and control infectious diseases with a strong emphasis on effective communication at all levels
  • Works with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to develop new and improved technologies to confront emerging infectious diseases

Where does this person work?  

  • Hospital Laboratories
  • Commercial and Reference Laboratories (where more complex lab tests are often performed)
  • Federal and State Government Laboratories
  • State and Local Public Health Laboratories
  • Hospital laboratories affiliated with Universities and Medical Schools
  • Pharmaceutical and Diagnostic Instrument Companies

Where is the greatest need for clinical microbiologists?

  • Develop new tests to identify emerging infectious diseases that are rapid, clinically relevant and cost effective.
  • Identify innovative ways to assess the activity of antimicrobial agents against microorganisms that are most predictive of therapeutic outcomes.
  • Provide guidance to computer programmers to develop information technology that can best serve clinicians when ordering tests, reviewing test results and integrating test results with each patients electronic medical record.
  • Work with healthcare teams to better control transmission of infectious diseases within healthcare settings and in communities in the USA and beyond.

Education and Experience Requirements:


Education & Experience

Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT)

  • Associate’s Degree
  • Completion of an accredited MLT program
  • ASCP certification (optional)

Medical Technologist (MT)

Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS)

Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS)
*These 3 designations describe the same position

  • BS in the biology/health-related sciences
  • Completion of an accredited MT program
  • ASCP certification (optional)

Clinical Microbiology Laboratory Director

  • MD, PhD, or MD/PhD in Microbiology/Molecular Biology/Clinical Laboratory Science
  • Postdoc through ASM’s CPEP training (optional but desirable), OR Informal training for 3 years in a clinical microbiology lab, OR MD Clinical Microbiology Postgraduate Fellowship
  • Certified through the American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) or American Board of Pathology-Medical Microbiology (optional)


What to Consider before Entering the Profession:

  • Do you want to use your science knowledge in a healthcare environment?
  • Would you prefer to stay “behind the scenes” rather than work directly with patients?
  • Are you interested in helping to determine the causes of infections?
  • Are you willing to at times work or be available to work weekends, evenings, and holidays?
  • Are you organized and able to multitask in a high-workload environment?

Other information:

  • As a MLT, you analyze specimens and report results. MLS’ have an added responsibility to perform more complex testing than MLTs.
  • After several years of experience “on the bench” as an MLS, you can become a supervisor or manager.
  • As a director of a clinical microbiology lab, you are responsible for tests performed in your laboratory, advise clinicians on test selection and interpretation, and serve as a microbiology resource for your health system beyond the laboratory.
  • Most laboratory personnel in the clinical microbiology field are also qualified to work in public health laboratories.



Want to learn more? Check out the additional resources.

Q&A with Debra Myers: A Chief Technologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center

Deb Myers Career LPDebra Myers is a Microbiology Chief Technologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. She received her BS in Medical Technology from Temple University and MS in Health Administration from St. Joseph’s University. She then went on to get two certifications - a Medical Technologist (MT) and Specialist in Microbiology (SM) from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

She gave us information on what newly hired lab/bench technicians in clinical microbiology can do to navigate the beginning stages of their career.     

A Career in Clinical Microbiology: Medical Laboratory Scientist

photo 0163422119xlxrftTy Cox, a medical lab scientist at Banner University Medical Center in Tucson shares his journey and what skills are needed for his profession. Not only does he need technical skills like doing molecular assays and virology cultures, he says that communication is a fantastic skill to have in the lab because you work with other people and have to establish a timely workflow. While he admits that time management isn't his strongest skill, he still finds a way to improve professionally and recommends that you stay up to date with current trends and new recommendations for lab practices in order to stay competitive in the field. 

A Career in Clinical Microbiology: Research and Development Technologist

ScottCunningham3Scott Cunningham, a Research and Development Technologist at the Mayo Clinic, identifies new technologies and applications for the clinical lab. He moved up the ranks to become an expert in procedural matters and training of new staff. He encourages students to aim for new goals by training for new methods and taking on additional projects. Find out more about what he does and advice for trainees.  

Career Profile: Ellen Jo Baron a Clinical Microbiologist at the Stanford University Medical Center

Ellen Jo Baron talks about her path, what it’s like to do a clinical microbiology postdoc, and the general set up of a clinical microbiology lab. To listen, check her out at TWiM!

Inside of a Clinical Microbiology Lab

Every wonder what a clinical microbiology lab looks like? Check out the video as we take you through the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.


Microbiology Career Profiles: From Industry to Private Foundation

Dr. Cristina Giachetti works for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a Deputy Director of Diagnostics in the Global Health Program. Learn about what she does, how she got to her position, and what you should do to get there. 

Preparing Students for a Career in Clinical Microbiology

PPCFor more information on the different career levels in clinical microbiology labs and examples of the type of work they do, download the slides that Janet Hindler, Senior Specialist in Clinical Microbiology at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

Click on the slide to download the presentation.