10 years ago, the average medical microbiology lab scientist or technician might expect to process 50 samples in a day.
10 years from now, with the help of automation and interpretative software, the same staff member will likely be processing upwards of 300 samples per day. For those who do molecular or infectious serology as opposed to bacteriology, it could well be many more.
Do the maths…
If you are thinking about going into microbiology training, you need to be very aware of this. Ask your peers about the numbers being trained on the course, and the likely number of job posts at the end of training. Look for transparency and honesty from the colleges and your career advisors. If this is your passion in life, by all means consider it, but be aware of how the discipline is going to change over the next decade.
If you are already in training or holding a post as a microbiology scientist/technician, then it is so, so important to supplement your skills: Show leadership qualities, do some research, get yourself IT savvy, learn how to troubleshoot automated systems. It all matters.
And if you work in a laboratory which is already highly automated, there is no room for complacency. The automation will inevitably increase further, and the interpretative software will become more sophisticated…
This new technology creates employment as well, but it is different employment. Designers, engineers, IT specialists and salespeople are all required for automated platforms.
And clinical microbiologists, like myself, are not immune from this evolution. (see this related post)
All we can do is be acutely aware of the changes that are taking place around us, and prepare ourselves as best we can for the future. We should be a little concerned by the above, but embrace the challenge nevertheless.
For a good article on this topic, click here. Things are changing so quickly, that already parts of this 2013 article are out of date….