Laboratory & Medical Technical
Laboratory technicians work as part of a team, providing specific support to scientists and typically reporting to a laboratory manager, to help manufacture, inspect and test products. Technicians are also involved in research and investigations.
Laboratory technicians' typical work activities include:
- Setting up experiments and investigations
- Carrying out risk assessments
- Collecting and analysing samples
- Preparing solutions, cultures or specimens
- Ordering and controlling stock
- Disposing of chemicals and waste products
- Cleaning and maintaining equipment
- Maintaining and operating standard laboratory equipment
- Recording, maintaining and reporting of laboratory results
- Using computers and performing mathematical calculations
- Following process instructions to ensure a repeatable process
- Following and ensuring safety procedures and safety checks
- Making up stock chemical solutions for use in laboratory tests
- Partaking in area clean-downs and area preparation prior and post manufacturing
- Working within a team and assisting colleagues, including sharing workloads and communicating effectively among the team
- Assisting in the quality processes and recommending any corrective actions
Laboratory technicians usually work full time (around 37.5 hours per week). A sizeable chunk of jobs may be Monday to Friday, but there are alternative schedules across different employers. Some have a rota system, while others have 'non-office' working hours, such as 11.00 am to 7.00 pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
Lab technicians usually work in sterile conditions, such as a cleanroom. (A cleanroom is an environment, typically used in manufacturing, with a low level of environmental impurities.) They wear protective clothing that guards them against dangerous substances and prevents contamination of samples.
Only in some industries do laboratory technicians travel; this is usually to carry out field work. What is more common is technicians travelling around their place of work to collect samples from various locations.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills and attributes for laboratory technicians
The skills and attributes required by different employers will vary, reflecting the demands of the sector in which they operate. But, in general, employers look for the following:
- Ability to interpret, follow and communicate technical instructions
- Attention to detail and accuracy
- Organisational skills
- Proficient in IT, Maths and science
- Practical understanding of the processes within a cleanroom
- Ability to work with a variety of materials
- Knowledge of overall manufacturing processes
- Able to follow fixed processes and guidelines within a lab environment
- Willing to undertake repetitive and intricate work
- Good eye-sight and manual dexterity.
Pay And Opportunities
The main employers of laboratory technicians are developers and manufacturers of a range of specialist appliances for different sectors, from medical, scientific and renewable energy to cosmetic and education.
Opportunities for progression
With experience laboratory technicians can progress into managerial or supervisory roles, managing a team or running a laboratory. Other avenues for advancement include specialising in analysis work or leveraging a degree and experience to move into a research technician role.
England and Wales
Qualifications and training
To get work as a laboratory technician you will need at least four A*–C grade GCSEs including English, maths and science or the equivalent National 5s. Some employers will only consider applications from candidates who also have A levels/Highers and a degree in a science subject such as chemistry, physics or materials science, or equivalent. Other employers seek graduates who have a PhD. In Scotland entry to relevant degrees requires 4-5 Highers (A-C) including Science and Maths.
An apprenticeship, which comprises employment-based training, is another route into the profession. Experience of working in a laboratory is often sought by employers, but it isn't always essential, because some employers will provide full training to the right person.
In Scotland there may be a Modern Apprenticeship in Life Sciences and Related Industries at Level 2/3.