Virologists study the structures, growth and properties of viruses and determine how they affect humans and other organisms. They conduct research, isolate viruses for tests and write research reports on their findings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies virologists as microbiologists. Salaries for virologists can vary, depending on their geographical areas and employers.
Salary Between $70,000 and $75,000
The average salary of a virologist was $75,230 as of May 2013, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent earned more than $121,060. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a bachelor's degree in chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry or cell biology. Those employed in research or as college or university instructors usually need doctoral degrees. Some employers prefer hiring those with lab experience from college internships. Other essential requirements are attention to detail, perseverance and observation, communication, math, logical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
Federal Government Pays Best
In 2013, virologists earned the highest salaries of $101,900 with the federal government, the BLS reported. An example of a federal employer who may hire virologists is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Virologists earned salaries of $76,580 at pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing companies, according to the BLS. They averaged $75,790 at plastic products manufacturing industry. Virologists who were employed in scientific research and development made $75,170, while those at colleges, universities and professional schools earned $60,970.
Top Pay in Maryland
Maryland employers paid their virologists the highest salaries at $107,230, according to the BLS data. Those in Washington, D.C., earned the second highest salaries of $103,290 annually and those in California made $91,400. Virologists averaged $88,190, $87,030 and $72,990 in Louisiana, Georgia and Massachusetts, respectively. They earned $77,000 in South Dakota, while those in New York and South Dakota made the least among the states listed -- $67,810 and $55,620, respectively.
Slow Career Growth
The BLS estimates a 7 percent increase in employment for microbiologists, including virologists, from 2012 to 2022, which is slower than the 11 percent national rate for all occupations. The importance of public health, the environment and the development of new treatments and medicines should increase jobs for microbiologists and virologists. Virologists take courses in many sciences, such as physiology, biology and physics, as microbiologists, bacteriologists and immunologists, which qualifies them to work in many different industries.