Lab Technician Duties and Responsibilities

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a lab technician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Lab technicians perform various tests, experiments and procedures. Some create items like artificial legs, dentures and eyeglass lenses. Education for aspiring lab technicians varies based on what field the student wishes to enter, with on-the-job training being a must for all positions.

Career Titles Clinical lab technician Medical appliance technician Dental lab technician Ophthalmic Lab Technician
Required Education Associate's degree in medical technology or science; certificates are also available High school diploma or GED and on-the-job training Most hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in dental lab technology; possible to secure employment with a high school diploma and on-the-job training, but rare High school diploma or GED and on-the-job training
Licensing and Certification Required by some states; regulations vary None mandatory Licensing required in some states; voluntary certifications available None mandatory
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 30% for medical and clinical laboratory technicians 6% 3% 12%
Median Salary (2013)* $37,970 for medical and clinical laboratory technicians $35,540 $36,440 $29,030

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Clinical Lab Technician

An associate's degree in science or medical technology is required by most employers in this field; certificate programs are also available and may be offered through hospitals. Some clinical lab technicians obtain employment through a combination of on-the-job training and education.

Clinical lab technicians might require a state license or registration, depending on the state of employment. These licenses and registrations are usually obtained by completing an examination after graduating from a certificate or degree program. Certifications are not necessary, although employers generally desire applicants to be certified through a professional certification agency like the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Duties and Responsibilities

Working under the supervision of clinical lab technologists, clinical lab technicians prepare specimens, follow detailed manual tests and oversee automated analysis tests. Depending on the lab, clinical lab technicians can work with different specimens, like blood and tissue samples. Tools used by clinical lab technicians include cell counters, microscopes, advanced computers and other lab equipment. The purpose of this position is to help physicians and researchers detect, diagnose and treat diseases, both new and old.

Medical Appliance Lab Technician

Medical appliance lab technicians receive on-the-job training and require a high school diploma or a GED prior to obtaining employment. Training programs accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) are available for students looking to obtain additional education prior to employment.

Duties and Responsibilities

Medical appliance lab technicians take prescriptions and instructions from a healthcare professional, then create the necessary artificial limb, brace or other medical appliance. Essentially, these technicians create any number of devices that a human with a disability can use to have increased mobility; they may also work with hearing aids. Some workers specialize in handling prosthetics while others specialize in corrective devices. Medical appliance lab technicians generally pick one area and work in creating objects for that medical field.

Dental Lab Technician

Some employers accept dental lab technicians with just a high school diploma and provide them with on-the-job training. However, dental lab technology programs are available and generally take 2-4 years to complete, depending on if it's an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Voluntary certifications are available for dental lab technicians who wish to demonstrate an additional level of proficiency. Before seeking employment, dental lab technicians should look into completing any state license requirements.

Duties and Responsibilities

After receiving a work order and dental molds from a dentist, dental lab technicians go about creating dentures, bridges, crowns and other dental prosthetics. First, dental lab technicians take the provided mold and create additional models of it by using plaster. These molds take in all factors of the patient's mouth, like the shape of teeth and various gaps in the teeth. This allows technicians to use wax models to develop the final product for the prosthetic.

Various tools that are similar to dentistry tools are used in this process. Depending on the size of a laboratory, a dental lab technician might be involved with all work processes or might just handle a specific job duty.

Ophthalmic Lab Technician

This position requires a GED or a high school diploma for the minimum level of education. Ophthalmic lab technicians receive most job experience through on-the-job training with an employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, training programs are available, but are very rare. Certifications and licenses are not required for this vocation.

Duties and Responsibilities

Ophthalmic lab technicians manufacture contact lenses and prescription eyeglasses with the use of automated equipment and by hand. After receiving the prescription directions, ophthalmic lab technicians use a variety of techniques like grinding, polishing, cutting and edging to make sure the lenses for prescription glasses match the needed specifications.

Each frame and prescription is different, since special adjustments or materials might be requested by a buyer. In some cases, ophthalmic lab technicians even manufacture lenses for binoculars and telescopes. After completing a product, the ophthalmic lab technician inspects the work to ensure everything is accurate and in good shape.

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