Physics laboratory technician
Laboratory & Medical Technical

Physics laboratory technicians help and support the work of physicists and engineers. They set up equipment, prepare and carry out experiments, take measurements and report on their findings. They work in a wide range of areas, including industry, education, medical science and research institutions.

Work Activities

Laboratory technicians are the backbone of a scientific research lab. Their work is almost entirely laboratory-based and technicians may work alone or as part of a team of scientific staff. They can work in most areas of science including forensics, health and manufacturing.

The area a laboratory technician works in will largely dictate the work they do. If they’re in a medical environment, they might be analysing body fluids or tissues, conducting blood tests and examining cells. If they work for a food and drink manufacturer, they might be testing food and drink samples to detect contamination or ensure quality.

Typical responsibilities of a lab technician include:

  • conducting and supporting scientific investigations and experiments
  • planning, setting up and undertaking controlled experiments and trials
  • recording and analysing data
  • demonstrating procedures
  • collecting, preparing and/or testing samples
  • maintaining, calibrating, cleaning and testing sterility of the equipment
  • providing technical support
  • presenting results to senior staff
  • writing reports, reviews and summaries
  • keeping up to date with relevant scientific and technical developments
  • supervising staff
  • carrying out risk assessments
  • ordering and maintaining stock and resources

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills

  • Independence
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Good teamworking skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Time management

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of physics laboratory technicians

Employers include firms involved in electronics, power generation (including nuclear power), telecommunications, and the motor and aerospace industries.

Physics laboratory technicians also work with meteorologists and geophysicists, and in government departments, schools, colleges, universities and hospitals.

Opportunities for physics laboratory technicians occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Qualifications

Entry routes and training

Most people enter a post and then have training on-the-job. It's possible to enter and train through an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship or Advanced Level Apprenticeship (Laboratory and Science Technicians).

Apart from training on-the-job, you might have part-time study by day- or block-release for relevant qualifications. These could include Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 Nationals, higher national qualifications, foundation degrees and degrees.

You might work towards a qualification such as a: 

  • Level 2 NVQ Certificate or level 3 NVQ Diploma in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities.
  • Level 2/3 NVQ Diploma in Laboratory Science.

The Institute of Science & Technology (IST) has developed the Certificate in Laboratory Technical Skills. This is available at levels 1-3, with a fourth level planned. The Certificate is awarded by PAA/VQ-SET, and delivered through registered centres.

Usually after some years' experience, you can take the IST's Higher Diploma. This is for specialist technicians working in specific areas of science.

The IST runs a range of other training courses, as well as continuing professional development programmes. For more information, please see the IST website.

Registered Science Technician (RSciTech)

The Science Council has launched a new register for professional technicians. Registration recognises technicians' vital role and raises their profile: becoming a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) will help ensure that your expertise is properly recognised by employers and others within the science community. Registration is through membership of one of a number of recognised professional bodies.

To register, you'll usually need a relevant level 3 qualification, such as an AS or A level, level 3 NVQ or Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 National. For more information, please see the Science Council website.

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