What Do Laboratory Assistants Do?

Laboratory assistants work in scientific and medical laboratory settings preparing experiments, processing specimens, maintaining lab equipment, and cleaning up after experiments. To become a laboratory assistant, you may seek an associate's degree in biotechnology or biological science. Typical job duties of a laboratory assistant can be found below. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

Laboratory assistants work in the field of science assisting researchers and scientists during lab tests and experiments. Before an experiment, laboratory assistants process specimens and prepare the proper experimental set up. Afterward, they clean and maintain the lab and equipment. Lab assistants may also work in medical lab settings and specialize in a specific area of lab assistance, such as a phlebotomy (collection of blood samples) or histology (cutting and dyeing of tissue samples).

Important Facts About Laboratory Assistants

On-the-Job Training Not provided, but acquired through work experience
Key Skills Thorough researching, attention to detail, critical thinking, problem solving, reading comprehension, time management, close listening, clear communication
Work Environment Hospitals; medical and diagnostic laboratories; physicians offices; colleges, universities, and professional schools
Similar Occupations Biological technicians; chemical technicians; chemists and materials scientists; veterinary technologists and technicians

Prepare and Process Specimens

Laboratory assistants are responsible for setting up lab equipment and supplies, as well as preparing and processing lab samples. Lab assistants must know how to properly handle specimens according to established protocols and follow any regulations related to the type of sample.

Assist Researchers

As a laboratory assistant, you may operate a wide selection of laboratory equipment and instruments, such as microscopes, in addition to following lab safety procedures and recording detailed data during lab tests. You must also follow written and verbal directions given by scientists and researchers.

Maintain Laboratory Facilities and Equipment

Laboratory assistants are in charge of cleaning lab instruments, sterilizing the test area, calibrating test equipment, keeping inventory of lab equipment, and following safety procedures when handling dangerous chemicals. Laboratory assistants also ensure that the laboratory is stocked with the necessary supplies.

Educational Requirements

In order to pursue a career as a laboratory assistant, you may enroll in a community college or vocational school to obtain an associate's degree in biotechnology, biological science, or medical technology. You can transfer your credits to a four-year university to earn a bachelor's degree, which may yield more advanced employment opportunities. While working toward your degree, you may work as a laboratory assistant in your school's lab or research facilities.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) published the median salary earned by medical and clinical laboratory technicians and technologists as $38,370 and $59,430 a year, respectively, in May 2014. The BLS noted that general and surgical hospitals employed the highest numbers of lab techs in 2014. While job opportunities for medical and clinical lab technologists are expected to increase by about 14% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS, technicians will likely witness employment growth of about 18% during the same decade.

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