NHS Careers > Explore by career > Healthcare science > Careers in healthcare science > Careers in life sciences > Microbiology


Microbiology is the study of organisms (bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic) that cause infections. As a healthcare scientist working in microbiology, a large part of your work will be the identification and characterisation of clinically important organisms with support and advice on the most effective drug to use for treatment. Examples include; MRSA, Clostridium difficile and norovirus infections.

You will therefore play a key role in preventing, diagnosing and controlling infections, both for individual patients and, more generally, within a hospital or community.

You will work in diagnostic laboratories and pathology departments in hospitals and you'll use a range of specialist culture and non-culture technologies and platforms, including molecular techniques such as, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and Sequencing. You will prepare cultures of micro-organisms and use a variety of tests and procedures to identify and classify organisms to help analyse and support the response to infection.

Through improvement and innovation you would also help to develop and improve tests to diagnose infectious disease.

Through its Centre for Infections, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is also a major employer of healthcare science staff specialising in microbiology and epidemiology. The HPA's aim is "to protect the community (or any part of the community) against infectious diseases and other dangers to health." The work focuses on disease diagnosis, treatment and surveillance. The HPA is a part of Public Health England.

Healthcare science staff often work at the forefront of research and innovation, so that patients are continually receiving the very best healthcare. There is opportunity for research in the specialist areas of bacteriology, virology, mycology and parasitology, often in collaboration with clinical colleagues or those working in industry.

Skills required

To work in microbiology you will need effective communication and team working skills.

You will need a mature, calm, confident but sympathetic approach to achieve the best outcome for each patient - or community.

You will also need to be confident with technology and systems/processes.

If you work in a role with responsibility for resources (such as staff, budgets or equipment) you must have good leadership skills and be able to use your initiative within the remit of your job role.

Entry points and requirements

There are two entry points into this area of work.

  • As a healthcare scientist, after a relevant degree (at a minimum of a 2:1 classification or a 2:2 with appropriate postgraduate qualifications), by applying for a place on the graduate-entry NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).
  • As a consultant healthcare scientist, after gaining postgraduate qualifications and/or considerable relevant experience through Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST).  

It can be advantageous to have gained some experience of working in a relevant environment before applying for a place on a course or job vacancy. You should always check with the course provider/employer to see what sort of experience is preferred or required.

Training and education programmes

Programmes are often supported by the development of workplace-based assessment tools, assessment of equivalent learning and the development of academic careers.

No matter what level you are working at, as part of your development you will be expected to do 'Continuing Professional Development' (CPD) to show that you are keeping yourself up to date with the policies and procedures in your area of work.


Many healthcare science roles require registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). For those parts of the workforce not regulated by the HCPC, professional voluntary registers are in operation.

For registration as a clinical scientist, individuals must hold an Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) Certificate of Attainment granted upon completion of the MSC Scientist Training Programme or AHCS Certificate of Equivalence.  

You can find out more about the Academy's Certificates on its website: www.ahcs.ac.uk

Please check individual job vacancy details for information when applying.


For information about pay for staff working in healthcare science, please click here.

Further information

For further information about a career in microbiology please contact:


The Association for Clinical Biochemistry Microbiology Group (ACB MG)- a Special Interest Group of the Association for Clinical Biochemistry

Website: http://www.aclinmicrobiol.org.uk/

Health Protection Agency
61 Colindale Avenue

Tel: 020 8200 1295
Website: www.hpa.org.uk