How Do I Become a Biology Technician?

A job as a biology technician could allow you to conduct or observe pharmaceutical, genetic and agricultural research. Get information about degree and specialization options in this field, along with job duties. Find out how to advance your career in the biological sciences. Schools offering Biotechnology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Biology Technician?

A biology technician assists scientists in tests and experiments. They set up and maintain lab equipment as well as prepare samples for testing. These professionals also record their work, which includes noting any observations they made and the results. They analyze the data they found and write reports on their findings. Biology technicians work in different research areas, including the medical field, where they might aid in finding new treatments.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Biology or a similar field
Training Required Lab experience is often essential
Key Skills Data analysis, technical aptitude with complex equipment, keen observation skills
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5%*
Median Salary (2015) $41,650*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Determine Educational Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree is generally required for employment as a biology technician. However, information published by the Bio-Link National Center, a professional association partially funded by the National Science Foundation, reports that associate's degrees are adequate for some biological researcher or technician positions. Classified ads posted on online job boards like CareerBuilder.com listed varying educational requirements. If you're unsure which degree you want to pursue, consider looking into common requirements in the geographical or professional area in which you'd like to work after graduating.

Earn Your Degree

Associate's degrees in biology are widely available, and most programs include courses in biotechnology. In an associate's degree program, you'll get a basic education in various areas of biology, including microbiology, plant biology, biochemistry and molecular biology. You'll also take courses in chemistry, physics, physiology and ecology. This foundational coursework can prepare you to transfer into a four-year bachelor's degree program upon graduation and may qualify you for an entry-level position as a biology technician.

Bachelor's degree programs teach about numerous biological applications and functions in genetics, chemistry, botany, zoology and human immunology. Most bachelor's degree programs allow you to focus your studies in an area such as animal behavior, parasitology, marine biology, endocrinology or community disease control. Through hands-on lab work, you'll learn the scientific, ethical and safety-related procedures of biology technicians and lab assistants.

Choose An Area of Professional Specialization

After earning your degree, you'll want to select the exact area of biological laboratory analysis in which you'd like to work, if you didn't do so before or during college. According to biotechnology career information published by the BLS, professional specialization areas for biology technicians may include medical or pharmaceutical research and development, along with genetic, animal or agricultural research. The BLS also reports that biological technicians can work as clinical research coordinators; however, such positions often require experience and may not be attainable to entry-level employees.

While exact job duties may vary, most positions involve testing medications or biological genetic mutations to measure their safety and effectiveness. Some biology lab technicians monitor organisms - mainly animals and plants - to determine the effects of medications, chemical products or genetic modifications administered to them. Agricultural biology technicians may run similar tests on food products. Biology technicians work with scientists, generally reporting back to them on test results or observations and occasionally recommending improvements or modifications.

Training and Advancement

Several postings on online job sites like CareerBuilder.com require a few years of laboratory experience for biology technician positions. If you have a bachelor's degree, the lab work you did during college may count toward this requirement. In some cases, however, you'll need to start in an entry-level position that trains technicians fully. Most companies do offer some sort of training to new hires, and they may gradually allow you to work more independently as you gain experience. For example, you may eventually report research findings to scientists occasionally rather than being continuously supervised by them directly.

According to the BLS, biology technicians with bachelor's degrees can eventually become scientists with enough experience on the job. In some cases, however, you may need a master's degree for such advancement. With a bachelor's degree, you can also become a laboratory research coordinator responsible for supervising technicians and overseeing lab operations. Joining a professional association may also lead to advancement opportunities via networking and continuing education. Numerous state and regional biology technician associations are listed on the Bio-Link National Center website.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Forensic science technicians and microbiologists are similar career options if you aren't interested in becoming a biology technician. Forensic science technicians help with criminal investigations where evidence is recovered. They analyze the evidence and write follow-up reports on what they found. Microbiologists study microorganisms to learn how they grow and live in their environment. Both of these career options require a bachelor's degree for entry, just like most biology technicians, though graduate degrees are common to both as well.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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