Biology Lab Technician Careers: Job Options and Education Requirements

Sep 10, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a biology lab technician. Get a quick overview of the requirements - including job duties, degree programs and licensure - to see if this is the right career for you.

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Although clinical lab technicians perform duties similar to biology research lab technicians, the former requires an associate's degree, while the latter calls for a bachelor's degree. Employment opportunities for clinical and research lab technicians are expected to increase from 2018-2028.

Essential Information

Biology lab technicians may choose careers in either clinical or research laboratories. In both cases, they use complex equipment to perform lab tests on organic samples and interpret the results for end users like health care providers and research biologists. Aspiring biological lab techs with only an associate's degree or certificate can pursue careers in clinical laboratories, while they might need a bachelor's degree to secure a job as a biological technician in a research lab.

Career Titles Medical Laboratory Technician Biological Technician
Required Education Associate's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State license sometimes required None
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians 7% for biological technicians
Median Salary (2018)* $52,330 for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians $44,500 for biological technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for individuals who can perform lab tests and analyze the results exists in many industries, including health care. The BLS also says that privately owned pharmaceutical firms and government agencies employ the services of biology lab techs to help with basic science research. In general, the two main career options for biology lab technicians are to work in a clinical setting as a medical lab technician or in a public or private research lab as a biological technician.

Medical Laboratory Technicians

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) explains that one career option for biology lab technicians is to work as a medical laboratory technician. The BLS states that medical lab techs may also be called clinical laboratory technicians, and their job responsibilities include readying biological samples for testing and performing manual and automated tests. The ASCLS notes that some clinical lab techs are responsible for collecting biological samples, maintaining lab equipment and analyzing test results as well.

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians could expect to see job growth of 11% from 2018-2028, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for medical laboratory technicians was $52,330 as of 2018.

Biological Technicians

According to the BLS, biological lab technicians perform job duties similar to those of clinical lab technicians, but they may also perform more abstract analyses. Clinical laboratories focus on analyzing biological samples to help physicians diagnose illnesses, while the research laboratories that employ biology laboratory technicians usually focus on inventing and testing new pharmaceuticals or studying infectious diseases. Clinical laboratory techs help to diagnose diseases, and biological technicians help to discover cures.

The BLS projected job growth of 7%, faster than average for all occupations, for biology lab technicians from 2018-2028. As of May 2018, the BLS reported, the median annual salary for biological lab technicians was $44,500.

Biology Lab Tech Education Requirements

The ASCLS reports that to land a job as a medical lab technician, a two-year degree or technical certificate is typically required. The BLS explains that some students earn technical certificates in clinical lab technology while they are serving in the Armed Forces, and others are trained at local hospitals or vocational schools. Those who have completed a clinical laboratory technology program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences may be able to apply their credits toward a bachelor's degree.

Although biology and clinical lab techs share many duties in common, the BLS says that biology lab techs more frequently need to apply problem-solving skills and exercise analytical judgment to produce the best results. As such, the BLS advises students who want to pursue careers in research labs to earn four-year degrees in the life sciences.

The two options available to you in this field are medical lab technician and biological technician. The former calls for an associate's degree and the latter, a bachelor's degree. For the foreseeable future, employment opportunities for medical lab technicians and biological lab technicians are expected to increase at a faster rate than the national average for all occupations.

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