Biology Technician Overview
Biology technicians assist scientists with performing research, experiments, and lab tests, as well as developing products. They work in fields including biotechnology, medical research, microbiology, and pharmaceutical research. Biology technicians prepare, calibrate, and maintain lab equipment. They also obtain samples of various specimens and prepare them for lab analysis, analyze data gained during experiments, and prepare reports about their conclusions.
Biology technicians must display attention to detail and be able to cooperate with coworkers. They need skills in analysis, writing, critical thinking, and verbal communications; as well as familiarity with software for gathering and studying data; and graphics, spreadsheet, and word processing software. Additionally, they must be proficient with lab instruments and automated equipment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biological technicians earned a mean annual salary of $45,230 as of May 2015. Let's look at the steps involved in becoming a biology technician.
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree
The minimum education requirement for biology technicians is typically a bachelor's degree in biology, biological science or a similar field. Bachelor's degree programs in biological science generally emphasize studies in biology and chemistry. Programs usually include classroom studies combined with significant laboratory experience.
Specific courses may include microbiology, genetics, ecology, cell biology, physics, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. Aspiring biology technicians also might benefit from taking classes in computer science and mathematics. Some bachelor's degree programs in biological science allow students to pursue concentrations in biopharmaceuticals, microbiology, biotechnology, plant science, or other specializations.
Step 2: Get Lab Experience
Employers typically list lab experience as a requirement for candidates seeking work as biology technicians. Undergraduates can get the necessary experience by taking classes that include laboratory work or by working as interns for drug companies, research facilities, and other relevant employers. Performing volunteer work is another option for gaining lab experience.
Step 3: Receive Job Training
Biology technicians typically start their careers with job training, which they perform while directly supervised by a scientist or skilled biological technician. New biology technicians assume additional responsibilities and duties under less supervision as they gain experience. Some biology technicians eventually move into supervisory positions. Promotion to scientist might be possible for individuals who have obtained a graduate degree or worked for several years as a biology technician.
Step 4: Join a Professional Group
Organizations that are relevant to the career needs of biology technicians include the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Society for Cell Biology. Association memberships are typically open to both students and working professionals. These organizations provide members with opportunities for networking and professional development. Some associations have online job boards that announce employment vacancies in the field. The benefits of association membership generally include access to professional journals and discounted services.
In summary, becoming a biology technician typically requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in biology or biological sciences as well as lab experience and on-the-job training.