How to become a science lab technician

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Interested in making new discoveries? Are you intrigued by why things work the way they do? If you’ve got a curious mind and an interest in science, a career as a science lab technician could be for you.

What is a science lab technician?

In a nutshell, a science lab technician does experiments in labs! They help scientists carry out investigations, measuring, recording and analysing different scientific data. They work in biology, chemistry, physics and the life sciences.

Science lab technicians provide support to the lab’s scientific team, making sure everything in the lab runs smoothly. They can play an important role in helping to make new scientific discoveries. They could develop new products, measure pollution levels or even help diagnose diseases.

Science lab technicians work for many different kinds of employers. This could be anything from carrying out medical research in a hospital, to doing experiments on ready meals for a big food producer. They could be testing make-up for a cosmetics company, or analysing water samples for an environmental agency.

Other employers of science lab technicians include the government, utility companies (they’re the guys who give us with gas and electricity), research institutions, universities and chemical companies.

What do science lab technicians do every day?

As you can see, the work of a science lab technician is pretty varied. So their day-to-day duties will be different depending on their employer. But to give you an idea, here’s a handful of tasks that a science lab technician might take on:

Science lab technicians have to pay attention to strict health
and safety rules, because they often work with toxic chemicals
  • Doing tests in the lab to help out with bigger scientific explorations.
  • Preparing solutions and samples, then recording results.
  • Following very specific processes and methods in order to analyse data.
  • Cleaning and operating equipment in the lab – this could be anything from a centrifruge to pH meters.
  • Checking that the lab is well-stocked, and ordering more equipment if needed.
  • Explaining scientific results to colleagues and managers.
  • Using digital technology to make calculations and creating graphs.
  • Disposing of chemicals and waste in a safe way.

Science lab technicians typically work in teams. Bear in mind that sometimes they have to handle animals in medical or research labs.

What do they earn?

The starting salary for a science lab technician is between £15,000 and £19,000. More experienced staff earn between £20,000 and £25,000. Salaries could be up to £40,000 for very experienced technicians.

What skills would I need?

In order to become a science lab technician, you’ll need the following skills and qualities:

  • The ability to understand and follow technical instructions.
  • Good attention to detail.
  • Well organised.
  • Able to learn practical methods and techniques.
  • Good problem-solving abilities.
  • Good hand-eye coordination.
  • Able to learn how to use technical equipment as well as maintain it.
  • Good time management skills.
  • Able to work on more than one project at the same time.
  • Top-notch people skills and patience.
  • Very good communication abilities so you can explain complex things to colleagues who may not work in science.
  • Basic maths and computer skills.

How do I become a science lab technician?

To pursue this role, you will need at least four GSCEs at grade C or above, including science, maths and English. Many employers will also require you to have A-levels.

A degree in biology, chemistry, physics, pharmacy and others could also lead you to a science lab technician job – but you don’t have to have a degree.

It is also possible to kick-start your career by doing an apprenticeship, which gives you training and experience as well as a salary.

Gaining work experience in a lab or a scientific setting will give you the edge when it comes to applying for jobs.

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Image credits

Header via Freepik; science lab technician via Flickr

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