Become a Molecular Biology Lab Technician: Career Guide
Learn how to become a molecular biology lab technician. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in molecular biology lab technology.
Do I Want to Be a Molecular Biology Lab Technician?
Molecular biology lab technicians use specialized equipment to conduct experiments, analyze data and record their results under the supervision of molecular biologists and other scientists. These technicians are often employed by postsecondary institutions, pharmaceutical companies or government agencies.
Like other medical and clinical lab technicians, molecular biology lab technicians can be exposed to potentially harmful materials or fumes in the laboratories where they work, though following safety procedures usually helps avoid such hazards. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for these professionals was only slightly above that for all other occupations in May 2012; however, the expected increase in job opportunities for these technicians during the 2012-2022 decade are substantially above average at 30%.
A bachelor's degree in biology is usually required in order to work in this field. The following table shows the core requirements for molecular biology lab technicians:
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree*|
|Degree Field||Biology or related field*|
|Experience||None for entry-level positions***|
|Key Skills||Attention to detail, critical thinking abilities, good observation skills**|
|Computer Skills||Database software, analytical software, word processing and spreadsheet software**|
|Technical Skills||Lab equipment, including DNA sequencers**, cell counters**, microscopes* and test tubes*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine, ***Multiple job postings (October 2012)
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Typical education requirements for a molecular biology lab technician include a bachelor's degree in biology or a closely related field. Some biology programs allow students to specialize in cellular and molecular biology. Most of these programs include both lecture-based and lab courses; common topics include bacteriology, cell biology, virology, organic chemistry and genetics.
- Gain practical lab experience while in school. In addition to lab courses, students can gain hands-on experience through an internship. Students can hone their laboratory analysis skills and prepare for full-time work after college.
Step 2: Obtain Licensure
It's not always required, but licensure may be necessary for molecular biology technicians who work in medical or clinical laboratories. Licensure requirements vary by state and may vary by specialty. For complete information on licensing requirements, prospective lab technicians should contact their state's professional licensing board or department of health.
Step 3: Work as a Molecular Biology Lab Technician
Technicians in this field often work in laboratories and scientists' offices. Under the guidance of senior researchers and scientists, molecular biology technicians may extract DNA, create tissue cultures and maintain lab equipment. Technicians need to observe additional safety protocols when dealing with dangerous specimens.
- Obtain advanced certification. The American Society for Clinical Pathology offers the molecular biology technologist/scientist designation to individuals who have at least one year of lab experience and a bachelor's degree. Successful completion of an exam is required.
- Maintain licensure. Lab technicians who are licensed need to renew their credentials every few years, depending on the state. In most cases, individuals need to obtain a certain number of continuing education credits.
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