Lab Technician Career Profile (Salary, Requirements, Skills, Training)

A medical and clinical laboratory technician is a person who performs laboratory tests that have been requested by doctors and other healthcare professionals. They analyze human tissue samples and body fluids using laboratory instruments, microscopes, and computers to discover anomalies and make diagnosis. The job of a laboratory technician is critical to a patient's health.

lab technician

What is a lab technician?

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists perform regular medical laboratory tests, providing doctors with the data they need to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. They can assess the chemical composition of fluids, check for parasites, bacteria, and other microbes in blood and bodily fluids, match blood for transfusions, and test for drug levels in blood by inspecting and analyzing body fluids and cells.

Microscopes, cell counters, and other complex lab equipment are used by medical and clinical laboratory personnel. They also make use of electronic devices and automated technology that can do many tests at the same time. They assess the data after testing and analyzing a specimen and transmit them to the physician.

A medical and clinical laboratory technician's responsibilities include the following:

  • Medical laboratory equipment must be set up, maintained, and cleaned.
  • take blood or tissue samples from patients use a microscope or an automated analyzer to examine and analyze biological fluids like blood and urine.
  • Look for any abnormalities in the cells.
  • Look for anomalies or illnesses to identify and decipher.
  • To generate reports, enter findings into a computer and record test data.
  • Perform blood testing and blood counts in preparation for blood transfusions.
  • When aberrant cells are discovered, produce tissue samples for pathologists to examine, and confer with a pathologist to establish a definitive diagnosis.
  • Oversee lab assistants and other technicians.
  • Perform tests, analyze blood fluids, oversee collecting samples and other laboratory procedures.

Technologist or technician?

The difference between a technologist and a technician is that a medical laboratory technologist must complete a four-year medical laboratory degree program. A two-year degree (or certificate) in medical laboratory technology qualifies the graduate to work as a medical laboratory technician. Technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) often make more money and have greater chances for growth than technicians.

lab technician

Lab technician work environment

Hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, physician's and dentist's offices, and state and federal agencies employ medical and clinical laboratory technologists. Working hours might vary depending on the sort of job you have. Technicians often work the day, evening, or night shifts at hospitals or labs that are open 24 hours a day. They can also work weekends and holidays. In small facilities, technicians can work rotating shifts rather than regular shifts and can be on call in the event of an emergency.

Few risks exist when proper sterilizing techniques are used. To guarantee safety, however, protective masks, gloves, and goggles are frequently required. The workspace is typically well-lit and clean; nonetheless, laboratory specimens and solutions might generate fumes.

What does a lab technician do?

In a scientific laboratory, a lab technician conducts highly mechanical, technical, or diagnostic procedures. In a laboratory or field environment, lab technicians can operate alone or under the supervision of a professional. They are in charge of documenting data, ensuring the correctness and efficiency of scientific investigations, maintaining equipment and lab instruments, and keeping the lab orderly, among other things.

The following are the day-to-day tasks of lab technicians:

  • Experiments, data collection, and fundamental inquiries are all part of the job.
  • Adjusting, calibrating, and ensuring that laboratory equipment and instruments are in good working order.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the work environment and equipment.
  • Creating databases and identifying biological samples for preservation and analysis.
  • Keeping thorough and precise notes of study findings and entering them into a database.
  • Purchasing and storing laboratory supplies.

Average salary of a lab technician

The majority of lab technicians work full-time and are paid hourly. A lab technician's compensation varies depending on the type of job, location, and size of the company. Most lab technicians earn an hourly wage of $17.56.

  • In the United States, the average hourly wage is $17.56.
  • Hourly wages typically vary from $7.25 to $41.30.

By state

Average salary of laboratory technicians by state.

  • Alaska: $49,640 per year.
  • Alabama: $34,090 per year.
  • Arkansas: $33,980 per year.
  • Arizona: $39,590 per year.
  • California: $40,523 per year.
  • Colorado: $40,270 per year.
  • Connecticut: $44,470
  • District of Columbia: $41,450 per year.
  • Delaware: $39,930 per year.
  • Florida: $35,360 per year.
  • Georgia: $34,300 per year.
  • Guam: $33,380 per year.
  • Hawaii: $46,790 per year.
  • Iowa: $41,470 per year.
  • Idaho: $31,480 per year.
  • Illinois: $42,020 per year.
  • Indiana: $35,630 per year.
  • Kansas: $35,460 per year.
  • Kentucky: $37,910 per year.
  • Louisiana: $32,970 per year.
  • Massachusetts: $40,530 per year.
  • Maryland: $38,860 per year.
  • Maine: $41,270 per year.
  • Michigan: $31,840 per year.
  • Minnesota: $44,920 per year.
  • Missouri: $34,040 per year.
  • Mississippi: $34,180 per year.
  • Montana: $39,010 per year.
  • North Carolina: $35,000 per year.
  • North Dakota: $41,390 per year.
  • Nebraska: $38,760 per year.
  • New Hampshire: $41,520 per year.
  • New Jersey: $51,160 per year.
  • New Mexico: $36,280 per year.
  • Nevada: $44,230 per year.
  • New York: $47,610 per year.
  • Ohio: $42,310 per year.
  • Oklahoma: $31,170 per year.
  • Oregon: $42,170 per year.
  • Pennsylvania: $38,140 per year.
  • Puerto Rico: $20,150 per year.
  • Rhode Island: $57,470 per year.
  • South Carolina: $36,860 per year.
  • South Dakota: $34,830 per year.
  • Tennessee: $36,210 per year.
  • Texas: $31,293 per year.
  • Utah: $31,800 per year.
  • Virginia: $37,440 per year.
  • Virgin Islands: $44,640 per year.
  • Vermont: $49,270 per year.
  • Washington: $43,800 per year.
  • Wisconsin: $41,950 per year.
  • West Virginia: $40,980 per year.
  • Wyoming: $36,810 per year.

Lab technician requirements

To do their jobs well, lab technicians need a combination of education, training, abilities, and certifications.

Education

To work as a lab technician, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Most employers prefer candidates with at least an Associate's Degree in Laboratory Science or a closely connected field. A degree from a National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences-accredited university might be beneficial. To learn more about the area and enhance your income potential, you can get a Bachelor's or Master's degree in Laboratory Sciences.

Pro tip: The primary mission of the Medical Laboratory Technician program is student success and growth as technical professionals in clinical laboratory science.

lab technician

Training

Extensive training can be required of medical laboratory technicians. Depending on the sector, lab technicians undergo different types of training. During on-the-job training, institutions frequently teach lab technologists on specific laboratory techniques. Learning about specific procedures, creating reports, and correctly disposing of trash are all examples of training.

Off-the-job training for lab technicians is available in the form of scientific seminars and conferences. Depending on their disciplines and specialties, lab technicians might attend a range of conferences. They can learn more about their areas at these conferences, which will help them keep up to date on market trends and scientific breakthroughs.

Certification

Many states require laboratory personnel to earn a license. To work, certain lab technicians must get certificates. The following certifications are available:

Medical Lab Technician certification

An MLT, which can be obtained through the American Society for Clinical Pathology or the American Association of Bioanalysts, certifies your ability to operate in a medical laboratory. To operate as a lab technician in a medical environment, several states need an MLT. To become an MLT, you must have an associate's degree and complete a rigorous training program.

Medical Laboratory Scientist certification

An MLS certification, which is also provided by the ASCP or the AAB, demonstrates that you can handle more duties in a medical laboratory. You'll need a bachelor's degree plus lab experience to get an MLS. Obtaining another appropriate qualification and completing a training program are also necessary.

Skills

Lab technicians will require a wide range of abilities depending on the type and nature of the organization. The following are the most frequent abilities shared by lab technicians:

Problem-solving skills

Lab technicians should be able to analyze a range of facts and select the best answer. To get good outcomes, the problem-solving approach should be methodical and comprehensive.

Analysis skills

Because lab technicians are frequently required to collect and evaluate enormous volumes of data and information. They should be able to use analytical approaches to identify relationships between outcomes.

Organizational skills

Lab technicians benefit from both well-organized records and pleasant working conditions. To maintain safety standards, they should be able to rapidly go through data and keep their work space clean.

lab technician

Communication skills

Because lab technicians frequently work in close quarters with their coworkers, the ability to communicate vocally is vital. They should be able to accomplish assignments and experiments as a team. Lab technicians should also have strong written communication abilities, as they will be writing reports on their results for others to comprehend.

Time-management skills

Timed tests are occasionally performed by lab technicians. They should be able to plan their days so that they can keep track of every phase of the procedure. Lab technicians can also accomplish a range of duties at the same time if they have good time management abilities.

Work environment

A lab technician can operate in one of the following environments, depending on the field:

Laboratories: Many lab technicians operate in a laboratory setting, where they are exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals.

  • Offices: Laboratory technicians can gather, analyze, and write data results in an office setting.
  • Construction sites: Lab technicians can collect soil and water samples on construction sites.
  • Industrial plants: Usually employ lab technicians to conduct research on new chemicals and record the findings.

Lab techs can have a specific workplace, known as a lab bench, where they utilize a range of scientific tools to run tests and evaluate data in many of these situations. While completing duties, lab personnel might sit, stand, and move around their workplace.

Lab technicians wear slacks, closed-toed shoes, and long-sleeved shirts, depending on the function and climate. They can also wear goggles, a lab coat, and gloves to protect themselves.

Lab technologists might work a range of hours depending on the situation. During typical business hours, most lab technologists work full time, however some overtime can be required when performing significant research. When conducting a timed experiment, certain lab technologists can work evenings and weekends on occasion.

How to become a lab technician

Here's how to become a lab technician.

High school diploma

Some employers can recruit you with only a high school diploma and provide you with on-the-job training. In many situations, a GED can be used in place of a high school graduation.

Associate's or bachelor's degree

You can major in laboratory sciences or a similar field, depending on your inclinations. A four-year degree can enhance your career possibilities because many employers favor a bachelor's degree over an associate's degree.

Get certified

You can need to obtain a certification depending on the state in which you plan to operate. Examine your state's regulations to see if a lab technician certificate is required. Even if your state does not require certification, you should think about getting one to show your expertise and competence.

Training

Staying current in the area can help you thrive in this job path, since new scientific discoveries are made all the time. In addition, if you have a lab tech certification, you will need to attend continuing education classes or training to keep your certification current.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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