If you’re considering a career as a virologist, we have all the facts that go into what it’s like to be one and what they average in their salaries.
When the need to consider a career comes into play, it’s pretty self-explanatory that salary would be a primary motivator to choosing a job.
However, there’s a lot more at stake than just making a right amount of money, but thankfully you can apply your passions to a career that genuinely moves you and makes you feel like you’ve made a difference in the world.
If your passion revolves around learning and discovering ways to prevent diseases before they become epidemics; you are a person who would love to take a career as a virologist. In this article, we’ll go over a virologist salary info as well as what they do and how to get involved in the career.
What Is A Virologist?
Virology is a precise term. It falls into a subcategory of microbiology that represents the study of viruses, or more specifically, it’s the study of microscopic and submicroscopic parasitic particles that become contained in a protein coat; otherwise known as a virus.
A virologist, in the simplest of terms, is a type of microbiologist that specializes explicitly in these parasitic particles and learns their behaviors and patterns when they enter our bodies.
These scientists play a critical role in how well our society is protected from a potential epidemic, even going so far as to put laws and health codes into place to achieve this.
There are many roles inside virology that a virologist can take part in. Some of the more common functions we see virologists take are categories such as:
- Virus-cell interactions
- Plant Virology
- Viral pathology
- Viral replication
- Viral oncology
- Emerging viruses
Most of the time, the information that a virologist has to work will only reveal itself through long hours of difficult research which is great for people who enjoy solving problems and building on research.
Once they have that information, they can use what they learn to help develop cures or develop ways for the public to limit their interaction with these viruses.
In addition to research and compiling information to serve as a foundation for better health to established and newly discovered viruses, they are working as teachers as well. Some virologists even carry on to move into law or business when they see where their work as a virologist can assist them further.
Other career categories that virologists can expect to see include:
- Group lead medical technologist
- Associate scientist of virology
- Microbiology laboratory supervisor
- Postdoctoral associate posting
- Biological administrator
Work Environment Of A Virologist
While Hollywood has created an interesting concept to put our minds as to how a virologist sees their jobs every morning, but what we don’t realize is that depending on what kind of virologist you choose to be will heavily determine what type of work environment you’ll witness every day.
Most of the time, virologists are conducting extensive research and compiling data to be used in reports and fact sheets that can be used by the public. Overall they will be prepared to administer and oversee different studies of microorganisms, and these studies are conducted in labs.
Usually, bacteria is taken to and used as a host for a virus by applying different control settings to view its reaction, and from these reactions is how scientist determine what they need to know about the spread of these viruses in our bodies. Being able to decide on what makes a virus grow and spread will help create preventive measures to reduce its effect on our bodies.
This kind of research is how we were able to study emerging viruses such as Ebola, SARS, and Sin Nombre which have been recently discovered and through virology, a lot of valuable research has been conducted off of it.
Virology doesn’t only focus on the impact of viruses on the human body, in fact, it is frequently found to benefit plants.
The study is known as plant virology, and this form of research is applied in a way to determine how viruses that attack plants and crops and then how best to prevent massive crop loss which leads to not only financial ruin, but also starvation in certain third-world countries.
Virologists are also used in a supervisory role when they take on a team of researchers in situations such as University, or larger private lab facilities. In these instances, a virologist will spend time planning and coordinating research processes instead of actively being involved in them.
Their primary role here would be to coach researchers on how to use lab equipment efficiently so that the research team they’re supervising will be better prepared to handle significant tasks.
After they’ve supervised an extensive research project and it’s finally come to completion, it is then a virologist job to assume primary responsibility and takes their research findings to their employer. For those who work in larger labs, the technical reports and collaborated data may be hand it off to other researchers, government Health agencies, or even lab administrators.
This research, at the highest level, can even contribute to the federal Centers for Disease Control and how they move forward with an outbreak. On top of their research for the Center for Disease Control, virologists will work in hospitals and medical clinics to collaborate with staff with individual patient cases.
This case is especially true when a patient is displaying symptoms of a viral condition, in which a virologist will take different samples needed for study and then conduct the necessary research on the samples. Once completed, the virologist will give an opinion that they feel best treats the problem, as well as how to control the virus’s spread to other patients and staff.
While it is rare, if the case is considered to be extreme, a virologist may recommend that the affected patient undergo quarantine until treatment can be administered to avoid the hospital from getting contaminated. A virologist must always understand that they are working around infectious diseases, and as a result, there is still a chance that they can get infected.
They will go through tedious training procedures to prevent this as much as they possibly can, but that is always a risk that most virologists will experience when they are on the field dealing with a potential outbreak.
Any good career usually requires a long and extensive educational background, and virology isn’t an exception to this rule. Most of the time when you’re considering a career in virology or any form of microbiology, you must begin by pursuing bachelors in a scientific field, preferably majoring in biology.
After that, pursuing a masters and then a Ph.D. though many students opt to take on an M.D. and Ph.D. dual degree to complete their training, and that’s before they have to take on post-doctoral research training further.
Once you’ve managed to achieve all of that schooling and research training, you still have to make sure that you get adequately certified and receive your license. To do this, you’ll have to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination or the USMLE after medical school.
Depending on the state that you live in, you will likely find out that every state has its specific requirements for virologists to be registered and work. Your education won’t stop there either; you’ll have to continue your education through the American Society for Virology or the ASV, and the Pan American Society for Clinical Virology (PASCV).
While all of this education and hard work seems like a lot to consider for a stable career, this position is seeing a rise in demand, and you can take this education with you in nearly every career choice that you’d want.
A good example would be that an environmental scientist that has an educational background in virology could earn you up to $95,000 with government benefits. It’s exceedingly beneficial to go through all the loops to obtain a degree in virology, and you’ll have a very comfortable living doing so.
What Can You Expect To Earn As A Virologist?
Besides offering a 13 percent employment growth through 2020, a microbiologist, in general, will be in huge demand thanks to the fact that these growths are mostly a result of the need for new medication and treatments against infectious diseases and chronic conditions. More scientists will be needed to research and study viruses and other organisms that cause these conditions.
By the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all microbiologist earned less than $65,230 a year; however biologist often earns around $76,963 a year as of 2010, which roughly equates to more than $5,000 more than a microbiologist average salary.
A virologist who also works as a physician could expect to see an average of $158,000 a year, but with six years of experience, they could look at their salaries boosted to $225,000 a year.
If a person who studies biology decides to teach in academic settings instead of going to their practice, post-doctorate candidates can expect to earn around $40,000 a year, and those serving as an assistant professor are expected to make approximately $85,000 a year.
Those who had an associates professors of virology also could potentially earn $106,000 a year. Full professors in biology receive an average pay of $180,000 a year.