Scientific Laboratory Technicians are vital to the overall framework of scientific research and development activities. Primarily employed by pharmaceutical companies, healthcare organizations, government departments, research organizations, and academic research institutes, Laboratory Technicians are responsible for ensuring the smooth and uninterrupted functionality of laboratory facilities and scientific equipment.
Laboratory Technicians are involved in a variety of laboratory-based investigations within biological, chemical, physical, and life science areas. Depending on the field, technicians may work independently or under the direction of a professional in the area.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Laboratory Technicians are required to complete.
- Performing start up/shut down procedures for the laboratory, including equipment start up/shut down, laboratory disinfection and cleaning, incubator and refrigerator checks, balance checks, pH checks, etc.
- Setting up experiments, gathering data, and carrying out the basic investigations that are allocated to them:
- Sampling, testing, measuring, recording, and analyzing results as part of a scientific team;
- performing laboratory tests in order to produce reliable and precise data to support scientific investigations;
- performing sample receipt functions as per laboratory protocols and assigning identification numbers to said samples;
- preparing and conducting microbiological/chemical analyses as directed by the laboratory supervisor; and
- preparing, cataloguing, and identifying biological samples for examination or for long-term storage.
- Maintaining detailed and accurate records of research findings; writing reports, reviews, and summaries:
- Entering test results and other data into the laboratory database and verifying the accuracy of the data that was entered.
- Providing all the required technical support to enable the laboratory to function effectively:
- Making sure instruments are accurately calibrated;
- constructing, maintaining, and operating standard laboratory equipment, (e.g. centrifuges, titrators, pipetting machines, and pH meters); and
- ensuring the laboratory is well-stocked and resourced with sufficient supplies.
- Keeping up-to-date with relevant scientific and technical developments, especially those which can save time and improve reliability.
- Ensuring health, safety, and security procedures are followed, as well as the company’s standards.
- Monitoring biological and chemical processes.
- Setting up, calibrating, and maintaining laboratory instruments and equipment.
- Preparing samples and specimens for use in their work.
- Conducting experiments, tests, and analyses for a variety of purposes, including research and development.
- Compiling and interpreting results of tests and analyses.
- Preparing technical reports, graphs, and charts, and giving presentations that summarize their results.
The average Laboratory Technician salary is $47,234 per year or $24 per hour. This is around 1.4 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $33,000 while most experienced workers make up to $66,000. These results are based on 156 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding hand-eye coordination and the ability to use technical equipment with accuracy.
- Knowledge of Good Laboratory Practices (GLP).
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with co-workers in the laboratory;
- being able to read and write technical reports; and
- being able to work cohesively as part of a team and provide support to different team members.
- Analytical, organizational, and critical-thinking skills:
- Being precise and accurate in their analyses, since errors could invalidate their research.
- Organizational and time management skills and meticulous attention to detail:
- Avoiding disorganization in the workplace that can lead to legal problems, damage to equipment, and toxic spills;
- carrying out routine tasks accurately and following strict methodologies to perform the corresponding analyses;
- being able to work on several different projects at the same time;
- being able to work in a fast-paced environment; and
- being able to prioritize tasks and responsibilities accordingly.
A degree is not always necessary to become a Laboratory Technician, although some employers may require applicants to have a scientific degree. However, the main requirement will usually be good qualifications in the appropriate scientific subjects (e.g. biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and life/medical/physical sciences). Relevant practical laboratory work experience of at least one (1) year can also be beneficial when applying for this position.
Obtaining degrees or vocational qualifications through part-time study can lead to better job prospects and progression into more senior research and development roles. Qualifications such as a master’s degrees or Ph.D.’s may enable the candidate to move into scientific research.
Working hours for Laboratory Technicians are generally fixed on a standard 9-to-5 basis. However, some labs, especially those in healthcare facilities, work on a 24/7 basis, and Lab Technicians are therefore required to work in shifts throughout the week, sometimes including holidays and weekends.