Career Development

What Does a Lab Technician Do?

Find out what a lab technician does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a lab technician.

Lab technicians are responsible for performing a wide range of tasks in the lab. They commonly work with scientists to analyze and interpret data, but they may also be tasked with preparing samples or equipment for testing. Lab technicians must have strong attention to detail and accuracy skills; their work is critical to ensuring that test results are accurate and reliable.

Lab Technician Job Duties

Lab technicians have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Following safety procedures and standards when conducting experiments or handling toxic chemicals or materials
  • Monitoring equipment for signs of wear and tear, making adjustments as needed to ensure optimum performance
  • Recording test results in computer databases or notebooks to track changes over time
  • Communicating with other members of the research team to discuss findings and determine next steps
  • Performing experiments using various techniques such as chromatography, spectrometry, or microscopy
  • Preparing samples for testing by sterilizing equipment, preparing solutions, weighing ingredients, and mixing solutions
  • Preparing and maintaining lab equipment and supplies
  • Preparing specimens for analysis by grinding, pulverizing, cutting, or dissolving them
  • Communicating with other team members to discuss results and follow up on action items

Lab Technician Salary & Outlook

Laboratory technicians’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location.

  • Median Annual Salary: $44,500 ($21.39/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $73,500 ($35.34/hour)

The employment of laboratory technologists and technicians is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

As scientific research and development increase, demand for laboratory technologists and technicians will grow along with it. Technologists and technicians will be needed to conduct basic and applied research and to ensure that new products are safe and effective.

Lab Technician Job Requirements

A lab technician typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most employers require lab technicians to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field, such as biology, chemistry or forensic science. Some employers may accept candidates who have an associate’s degree or a diploma in a science-related field.

Many employers prefer candidates who have completed a formal laboratory technician program. These programs typically take one to two years to complete and include coursework in biology, chemistry, microbiology and math.

Training & Experience: Most lab technicians receive on-the-job training from their supervisors or other experienced lab technicians. This training helps the lab technician learn the specific processes and procedures for their role. They may also learn how to use the equipment and how to clean and organize the lab.

Certifications & Licenses: Lab technicians do not need certifications to obtain employment, but those with advanced certification have a competitive edge over others seeking employment or advancement.

Lab Technician Skills

Lab technicians need the following skills in order to be successful:

Attention to detail: Lab technicians need to have excellent attention to detail to ensure they enter the correct data into their computer and accurately record their observations. They also need to have good attention to detail when following protocols to ensure they perform the right tests and use the right equipment.

Communication: Lab technicians must be able to communicate with their coworkers and supervisors. They often work in teams to complete projects and tasks, so they must be able to work with others and share information. Lab technicians also communicate with patients and other medical staff, so they must be able to explain technical information in an understandable way.

Critical thinking: Lab technicians use critical thinking skills to solve problems and make decisions. They may need to troubleshoot equipment, find solutions to supply shortages or identify potential hazards. Lab technicians may also need to make quick decisions about how to handle samples or chemicals.

Problem-solving: Lab technicians solve problems every day, and their ability to do so can help them advance in their careers. Lab technicians solve problems by identifying the issue, gathering information about it and coming up with a solution. They may need to use their problem-solving skills to identify the source of a contamination, find a way to fix a broken piece of equipment or find a way to conduct an experiment when they don’t have the necessary materials.

Time management: Lab technicians often have multiple tasks to complete in a day, so time management is an important skill for them to have. They may also have multiple projects to complete over the course of a week or month, so it’s important for them to be able to prioritize their tasks and set deadlines for themselves.

Lab Technician Work Environment

Lab technicians work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, and research laboratories. They may work in clean rooms, where they must wear protective clothing, or in standard laboratory settings. Most lab technicians work full time, and some may work evenings or weekends to meet the demands of their job. They may also be on call to work at odd hours or to fill in for absent colleagues. Lab technicians typically work under the supervision of a more experienced technician, scientist, or physician.

Lab Technician Trends

Here are three trends influencing how lab technicians work. Lab technicians will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Technical Talent

The need for more technical talent is a trend that is being driven by the increasing demand for lab services. As businesses become more reliant on testing and analysis, they will need to hire professionals who can provide these services.

This trend is creating opportunities for lab technicians who have the skills and training needed to provide these services. By becoming certified in specific areas, such as pharmaceuticals or food safety, technicians can set themselves apart from the competition and find work with top-tier companies.

More Collaboration Between Scientists and Technicians

As science becomes increasingly complex, there is a growing need for collaboration between scientists and technicians. This is because many scientific experiments require specialized equipment that only technicians are able to operate.

As a result, lab technicians will need to be familiar with the latest scientific methods and techniques in order to help scientists achieve their goals. They will also need to be able to communicate effectively with scientists in order to get feedback on their work.

A Greater Focus on Quality Control

As the world becomes more interconnected, the need for quality control has become increasingly important. This is especially true in the pharmaceutical industry, where the slightest error could lead to serious health problems for patients.

Lab technicians are in a unique position to capitalize on this trend, as they are responsible for ensuring that all products meet the highest standards of quality. By developing strong quality control skills, lab technicians can ensure that their company’s products are safe and effective.

How to Become a Lab Technician

A career as a lab technician can be both rewarding and lucrative. It’s important to consider the type of work you want to do before starting your search for a job. Do you want to work in a hospital, clinic, or research facility? Or would you prefer to work in a pharmaceutical company or a biotechnology firm?

No matter where you end up working, it’s important to have a strong foundation in science. You should also be able to communicate effectively with other professionals and patients.

Related: How to Write a Lab Technician Resume

Advancement Prospects

Many lab technicians start their careers in entry-level positions, such as lab assistants. With experience and on-the-job training, they can advance to positions such as lead lab technician or supervisor. Some lab technicians may also move into related roles, such as research assistant or quality control specialist.

Those who have completed a bachelor’s degree in a life science may be eligible for positions as research scientists. Those with a master’s degree or doctorate may qualify for jobs as senior research scientists or postsecondary teachers. Some lab technicians may also choose to pursue a medical degree and become a doctor or veterinarian.

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