Scientific Laboratory Technician

Scientific laboratory technicians are involved in a variety of laboratory-based investigations within biological, chemical, physical and life science areas. They may carry out sampling, testing, measuring, recording and analysing of results as part of a scientific team. Technicians provide all the required technical support to enable the laboratory to function effectively, while adhering to correct procedures and health and safety guidelines.
Scientific laboratory technicians carry out work that assists in the advancement and development of modern medicine and science. The work plays an important role in the foundation stages of research and development (R&D) and in scientific analysis and investigation. They are mainly employed within industry, in government departments and research organisations. The role of a teaching laboratory technician is similar although their work takes place in educational institutions, where they support science teachers, lecturers and students.

Typical work activities

  • Performing laboratory tests in order to produce reliable and precise data to support scientific investigations.
  • Carrying out routine tasks accurately and following strict methodologies to carry out analyses.
  • Preparing specimens and samples.
  • Constructing, maintaining and operating standard laboratory equipment, for example centrifuges, titrators, pipetting machines and pH meters.
  • Ensuring the laboratory is well-stocked and resourced.
  • Recording and sometimes interpreting results to present to senior colleagues.
  • Using computers and performing mathematical calculations for the preparation of graphs.
  • Keeping up to date with technical developments, especially those which can save time and improve reliability.
  • Conducting searches on identified topics relevant to the research.
  • Following and ensuring strict safety procedures and safety checks.

Technical Skills

  • Ability to learn specific, practical techniques and apply this knowledge to solve technical problems.
  • Good hand and eye coordination and the ability to use technical equipment with accuracy.
  • Ability to maintain and calibrate technical equipment.
  • Time management skills in order to work on several different projects at the same time.
  • Flexibility in order to work with and provide support for a number of people.
  • Excellent oral communication skills in order to work effectively with colleagues from all parts of the organisation and to explain complex techniques to interested parties.
  • Experience in providing demonstrations and writing technical reports.
  • Teamwork skills and patience.
  • Attention to detail.

Excellent record-keeping skills are required, along with basic maths and computing. As you progress through your career, you may also need to learn management and leadership skills.

Career Development

As a scientific laboratory technician, your career could develop through the following roles: assistant technician; technician; senior/lead technician; team leader technician; laboratory manager. As you progress you will take on more responsibility as well as supervision and management of a team of staff and the laboratory. You will carry out more complex tasks, which could include some analysis.
In order to gain promotion you may need to move to a larger employer or a role in industry where progression is typically more defined. Teams are often larger and therefore provide more roles and management levels. It may be possible to become a specialist in your field. For example, in healthcare with experience and possibly further training, you could become a phlebotomist, cardiographer or physiologist. Taking further qualifications such as a Masters or PhD and acquiring specialist knowledge may enable you to move into scientific research. Science and research companies tend to have strong international links, which could provide the opportunity to work abroad.

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