You need a Ph.D. in microbiology to work as a microbiologist at a college, university or university-affiliated research facility. Ph.D. microbiologists can also find work with pharmaceutical companies, scientific research facilities and state and federal governmental facilities. The pay for microbiologists with Ph.D.'s varies by facility, with the highest salaries going to those working for the federal government.
In 2012, the median salary for all microbiologists was $66,260, or $31,86 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of these, the top 10 percent earned $117,690, or $56.58 per hour, and the lowest 10 percent earned $39,720, or $19.10 per hour.
Salary By Industry
The BLS reports that the highest-paying industry for microbiologists in 2012 was the federal executive branch, with a mean salary of $100,910. The federal government was the third-biggest employer of microbiologists, with 2,570 employees in 2012. The pharmaceutical industry, which employed 4,530 microbiologists in 2012, paid a mean salary of $74,720. Scientific research services employed 4,490 microbiologists with a mean salary of $71,770, while colleges and universities employed 1,630 microbiologists with a mean salary of $59,420.
The top-paying states for microbiologists were the District of Columbia, which paid an annual mean salary of $104,030, and Maryland, with a mean salary of $102,650. Other top-paying states for microbiologists were Louisiana, with a mean salary of $87,020; Georgia, $85,710; and California, $85,430. The top-paying metropolitan area for microbiologists was Bethesda-Rockvill-Frederick, Maryland, $110,190, followed by Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California; $96,150; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, $92,600.
Top-Paying Colleges and Universities
Five American universities pay full professors an average of $200,000 or more, according to the American Association of University professors. The list is topped by Columbia University in New York, with an average $213,300 a year, followed by Stanford, the University of Chicago, Harvard and Princeton. The highest-paying public university is the University of California, Los Angeles, with an average pay of $167,000 for full professors. Microbiologists working in research positions at colleges or universities are often required to earn at least part of their salaries by writing and winning scientific grants in their area of research.