What to Know About Being a Laboratory Technician
Laboratory technicians are in high demand right now. Learn more about the profession in our guide.
The need for diagnostic medical testing has soared in recent years, thanks to an aging population. In addition, more and more patients are interested in accessing health data through wearables and laboratory testing. As a result, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 11% job growth for clinical laboratory technicians and technologists between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than average.
Most employers require an associate degree in clinical science or a related field for lab technician positions. Some employers may accept a relevant certificate or professional certification. A bachelor's degree is always useful but not required, although it may help you qualify for lab technologist positions, which usually come with an increase in pay and responsibility from lab technician roles.
www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Ready to start your journey?
Lab technician is among the best jobs for trade school graduates and one of the best jobs you can get without spending a fortune on your education. Read on to learn more about the profession.
What Does a Laboratory Technician Do?
Laboratory technicians work in hospitals, physicians' offices, and medical and diagnostic laboratories. They spend much of the day on their feet, using different instruments and devices to perform diagnostic tests. They must wear proper personal protective equipment when dealing with dangerous chemicals.
Laboratory technicians who work in hospitals may need to work long or irregular hours during evenings, weekends, and holidays. No matter where they work, these professionals generally perform the following daily responsibilities:
- Calibrate and sterilize equipment, such as microscopes, cell counters, and other computerized instruments.
- Acquire samples of blood, tissue, or other substances from patients.
- Test patients' blood fluid for any abnormalities.
- Analyze blood samples to count and record the type of cells, their blood group, type, and compatibility.
- Record all findings and discuss results with a laboratory technologist and the patient's physician.
- Work with a laboratory technologist to help them perform more automated tasks.
What Is a Laboratory Technician's Career Outlook?
Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 11% job growth for all clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. This rate exceeds the average projected growth rate for all occupations in the U.S. (8%). Eleven percent growth translates to 36,500 new positions added to the current workforce of 335,500 technicians and technologists.
The BLS attributes this strong projected growth to an aging population and a greater need to diagnose medical conditions through lab testing. Lab techs can help medical professionals identify cancer, diabetes, and various genetic conditions through prenatal testing.
What Is a Laboratory Technician's Salary Potential?
According to the BLS, clinical laboratory technicians and technologists earned a median annual salary of $54,180 as of May 2020. Technicians who worked in outpatient care centers earned the highest median annual wage at $57,640, while lab techs who worked at physicians' offices made the lowest median salary at $48,260.
There is a great variance in technician wages. The highest 10% of earners made more than $83,700 as of May 2020, while the lowest 10% earned less than $31,450. Salary potential depends greatly on location, experience, employer, and title (such as in technician vs. technologist).
While the BLS does not separate salaries between technicians and technologists, technologists are likely to earn higher wages. Employers usually require a bachelor's degree for technologist positions and an associate degree or certificate for technician positions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Being a Laboratory Technician
Is being a laboratory technician a good career?
Yes. Laboratory technician is among the best careers that you can pursue with an associate degree. According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $54,180 as of May 2020, and the top 10% of earners made more than $83,700. The BLS also projects 11% job growth for these professionals between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than average.
Many professionals also find the work personally rewarding. Lab technicians help medical professionals catch underlying health issues in patients, which can lead to life-saving interventions and procedures.
What skills are needed to become a laboratory technician?
Laboratory technicians must be detail-oriented, organized, and comfortable working with different instruments and equipment. They must also feel comfortable following safety procedures and wearing personal protective equipment. An orientation toward biology, chemistry, and working with your hands can also serve you well as a lab technician.
These professionals also need time management and problem-solving skills to perform testing in a timely manner and deal with unexpected issues that may arise.
How long does it take to become a laboratory technician?
It generally takes two years to become a laboratory technician. Prospective lab techs must complete an associate of science degree, which requires two years of full-time study. If you work while enrolled, you may need additional time to complete this degree.
While most laboratory technician positions do not require a bachelor's degree, a four-year degree can help strengthen your qualifications. If you plan on advancing your career to a technologist position, plan on spending four years to earn a bachelor's degree.
Feature Image: Portra / DigitalVision / Getty Images
The 15 Best Jobs for Trade School Graduates
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Compare your school options.
View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.