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Lab Assistant vs. Lab Technician: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Lab assistants and lab technicians are both important roles in the scientific community. They work with scientists and engineers to conduct experiments and collect data. While they share some similarities, there are several key differences between these two positions. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between lab assistants and lab technicians, and we provide information on what you need to know to pursue a career in each field.

What is a Lab Assistant?

Lab Assistants work in healthcare facilities, performing a variety of tasks to support the work of medical professionals. They may collect and prepare patient samples for laboratory testing, operate and maintain laboratory equipment, and record and report test results. They may also assist with research projects and provide administrative support to the lab team. In some cases, Lab Assistants may provide patient care, such as taking vital signs or drawing blood. Lab Assistants typically work under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, such as a doctor, nurse or lab technician.

What is a Lab Technician?

Lab Technicians are responsible for conducting tests and experiments in a laboratory setting. They work with a variety of chemicals and equipment to carry out specific tasks assigned to them by a Lab Manager or Scientist. Lab Technicians must be able to follow instructions carefully and be detail-oriented in their work. They document their findings and results in order to communicate their work to others. Lab Technicians may also be responsible for maintaining the lab equipment and keeping the lab space clean and organized.

Lab Assistant vs. Lab Technician

Here are the main differences between a lab assistant and a lab technician.

Job Duties

Both lab assistants and lab technicians have similar job duties, although the tasks they complete during their workday may differ. Lab assistants may perform general maintenance activities like cleaning and organizing equipment and supplies. They also may help scientists with experiments by operating machinery or assisting a scientist in conducting an experiment.

Lab technicians typically perform technical tasks related to laboratory equipment, such as maintaining and repairing machinery or installing and upgrading software on laboratory computers. They also assist lab scientists by performing routine lab procedures, such as running tests or analyzing data.

Job Requirements

Lab assistants typically need at least a high school diploma to enter the field, though some jobs may require an associate degree. Many community colleges offer two-year programs in medical laboratory technology that can prepare students for work as lab assistants. These programs often include coursework in chemistry, biology and other sciences, as well as clinical experience.

To become a lab technician, you usually need an associate degree from a program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). These programs typically take two years to complete and include coursework in chemistry, microbiology and other sciences. Many programs also include clinical experience. After completing their education, lab technicians must obtain certification from a professional organization, such as the American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

Work Environment

Lab assistants and technicians may work in different environments depending on the type of lab they’re working in. For example, a lab assistant might work in an office or research facility where they can perform administrative tasks like filing paperwork and scheduling appointments. A technician might work in a laboratory that’s more hands-on, such as a hospital or doctor’s office, where they can perform tests for patients.

Both professionals may also work in research facilities, pharmaceutical companies or universities. They may also work in hospitals to help doctors diagnose patients and determine their treatment plans.


Both lab assistants and lab technicians use basic laboratory equipment and techniques in their work. This includes skills like measuring, mixing and preparing solutions, as well as operating centrifuges and other machines. They also both need to be able to follow instructions carefully and have strong attention to detail to avoid making mistakes in their work.

However, lab assistants typically have less experience and training than lab technicians. As a result, they are often responsible for more basic tasks, like cleaning glassware and stocking supplies. They may also assist technicians with more complex tasks, like setting up experiments. Lab technicians usually have more responsibility for conducting experiments and analyzing data. They may also develop new methods or procedures for experiments. To do this, they need to have strong research and problem-solving skills.


Lab assistants earn an average salary of $41,327 per year, while lab technicians earn an average salary of $46,986 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the type of lab you work in, your level of experience and your location.


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