Lab Assistant: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Requirements

Lab assistants collect and process samples from various sources and use lab equipment to analyze them. Lab assistants must have at least a high school diploma, but most employers require a certificate and/or an associate's degree. Continue reading for an overview of a lab assistant career. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

The main duty of a lab assistant is to support the professional lab technologist in collecting specimens, preparing them for analysis and running routine lab tests. As a lab assistant, you may test blood, urine, tissue and other bodily substances. Job prospects are higher for individuals who possess a degree from an accredited education program and certification.

Duties Analyze body fluids, study blood samples, operate lab equipment and log medical data
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 14% (medical and clinical laboratory technicians)
Certification Boosts employment prospects; certification for laboratory workers might be required by some states; acquired by graduating from an accredited program and passing an exam
Education An associate's degree in clinical laboratory science is often held by medical laboratory technicians; vocational and technical schools offer certificate programs
Median Salary (2017)* $51,770 per year (medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is Expected of a Lab Assistant?

Lab assistants must ensure that all necessary materials are at hand when needed. Thus, restocking materials and reagents as well as cleaning equipment and laboratory instruments are also part of the typical daily routine. Keeping track of the data obtained and accurately recording the various analyses performed are important roles for the lab assistant. The following skills and qualities are helpful when performing these duties:

  • Attention to detail
  • Dexterity
  • Physical stamina
  • Technical savvy

What is the Career Outlook?

There were 164,200 medical and clinical lab technicians in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The job growth is forecasted to be 14% for the period of 2016-2026, which is faster than the national average. This job growth equates to about 22,900 new jobs. Job growth is partly due to an aging population that needs more diagnostic medical tests, some of which require laboratory analysis, as well as increased medical insurance coverage that allows people to get the tests they need.

What Are Some Educational Requirements?

Some lab assistants who hold at least a high school diploma may be trained on the job. However, earning an associate's degree in clinical laboratory science or a related subject is becoming the standard level of education. Some certificate programs are also available, but these are usually targeted to individuals who already have allied health training. You can find training programs at community colleges and vocational schools.

In a clinical laboratory science associate's degree program, you'll take basic science and mathematics courses. Hands-on training with basic laboratory techniques and equipment is generally provided. Some classes you may take are hematology, immunohematology, and bioethics.

What Are Some Credentialing Options?

Some states and employers require laboratory workers to be licensed or certified. Holding certification as a medical laboratory technician can also boost your employment prospects. Typically, you need to graduate from an accredited program and pass one or more examinations to earn a professional designation.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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