What Is a Chemical Lab Technician?

Read about a career as a chemical lab technician. Learn about education requirements, work responsibilities, salary and potential job growth to see if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Chemical Lab Technician?

Chemical lab technicians assist chemists and chemical engineers with research, experimentation and the development of products and chemical processes. They help design, execute and monitor experiments, and they often record and report on results. In addition, they assist with the maintenance and troubleshooting of laboratory equipment. They may find work in academic or industrial settings, and they may work in labs specializing in a wide range of chemistry subfields, including inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry and medicinal chemistry.

The following chart gives you an overview of this career.

Degree Required Associate's degree, bachelor's degree preferred for some jobs
Education Field of Study Chemistry, chemical technology, applied science
Key Skills Ability to use technical equipment, observational skills, written and verbal communication, teamwork
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%*
Average Salary (2015) $48,730*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Duties of a Chemical Lab Technician?

Your basic function as a chemical lab technician is to provide practical assistance to chemists and chemical engineers in the lab. You use the theories of chemistry and mathematics to help research and develop ways to create new chemical products. Some of your specific job duties as a chemical lab technician might include setting up laboratory equipment and performing experiments to achieve new results. You might be responsible for gathering certain chemicals, setting up experiments, controlling chemical processes and analyzing samples. You're also typically responsible for documenting and organizing the results of experiments.

What Educational Programs Are Available?

If you aspire to work as a chemical lab technician in the field of chemical research and development, you will probably need at least a bachelor's degree. A Bachelor of Science in Chemistry should provide students with a basic understanding of physical, organic, inorganic and analytical chemistry. You should consider enrolling in a degree program that is accredited by the American Chemical Society to ensure that the curriculum meets the field's academic standards.

Most bachelor's degree programs in chemistry contain both classroom lectures and laboratory experiences. They're designed to provide you with a theoretical background in chemical properties while also providing you with the practical skills needed to work in a lab. Most also require you to take general education courses.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2015, chemical technicians working in the field of chemical manufacturing earned an average of $53,040 a year. Technicians employed by pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing companies were paid an average of $46,680. Those who worked in scientific research and development had average salaries of $61,320, while technicians with jobs in architectural, engineering and related services took home an average of $40,920. Some of the top-paying industries in the field included electric power distribution companies and coal products manufacturers.

Could I Advance in the Field?

When you start out working as a chemical lab technician, you perform your duties under the supervision of experienced technicians and scientists. If you have at least a bachelor's degree, it's possible that you might advance to a supervisorial role after just a few years. If you go back to school to earn a graduate degree in chemistry, you might also be able to advance to the role of chemist or scientist.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in medicine, you could consider becoming a clinical laboratory technician or technologist. These lab workers conduct tests on blood and tissue samples for diagnostic or medical research purposes. Technologists need to have a bachelor's degree, while technicians only need an associate's degree. Alternatively, if you would rather work in a biology lab, you could become a biological technician, where you would assist with research related to the life sciences. Biological technicians usually need to have a bachelor's degree.

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