Thinking about becoming a lab technician? This article looks into the education requirements, skills and day-to-day functions of the job to see if it’s the right fit for you.
Lab techs are skilled workers who are prized for their ability to work with complex systems and perform highly technical mechanical or diagnostic tests in a laboratory environment. Technicians often work both independently and with a team of other technicians under the direction of a lab manager or doctor. Lab techs are tasked with collecting samples, studying and performing tests on body fluids, teeth, chemical compounds, biological specimens and so on to test for certain results, including diseases, infection and other issues. Lab techs use a wide variety of instruments, machinery, lab equipment and computer programs to run their tests. They then record their findings for further study by the doctors and physicians they work with for patient diagnoses. Lab work needs to be done in a sterile environment, so lab techs must be able to maintain a clean environment.
What you will make as a lab tech depends on your area of expertise and field of work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2017 the median income for a medical lab tech was $24.89/hour, or $51,770 per year. The outlook of this career path is strong with a projected growth of 14 percent between 2016 to 2026. This is faster than the average projected growth for all occupations in the U.S. This is likely due to a large amount of the population reaching an age when they need greater medical support and the accompanying laboratory procedures. Prenatal testing for various genetic conditions are also increasingly common.
Lab techs are required to have specific skills relating to their job functions, and advancement often depends on their specialization in one area. But for those technicians just starting out, there are several core skill sets that will serve them well in this type of role. Those core skills include the ability to use technology, including how to operate computerized lab equipment and the programs designed to run tests. They must be detail oriented to follow the exact instructions required to produce a result. They must have a certain level of dexterity as medical lab techs work a great deal with their hands, needles and other precision laboratory instruments that need to be handled effectively and with great care. They also require a good deal of physical stamina as most lab techs spend a great deal of time on their feet every day. Furthermore, compassion is an important job skill for lab techs. Empathy is necessary when working closely with patients who might be in pain or feeling emotional stress.
Education and Training
Opthalmic and dental lab techs can typically get started with only a high school diploma and will likely pick up most of their required training on the job. Medical and clinical lab techs typically require an associate degree in life science or medical technology.
For more thoughts on pursuing a career as a laboratory technician, contact a recruiter at Verum Technical today.