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Film Laboratory Technician: Education and Career Info

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

Film laboratory technicians are workers knowledgeable about dark rooms, relevant chemicals, film development techniques, and the necessary equipment or technology. Higher education is not typically a requirement, but courses offered at colleges or universities are a useful way to gain needed knowledge. Skills needed for this job are typically strengthened through internships or some form of on-the-job training.

Essential Information

Film laboratory technicians typically have a combination of a high school education and hands-on experience working in a darkroom. Many individuals seeking careers as film technicians enroll in postsecondary programs in film or photography to learn film developing and processing techniques.

Required Education High school diploma at minimum; associate's or bachelor's degree recommended
Other Requirements On-the-job training, internship or apprenticeship may be necessary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5.6% for photographic process workers
Median Salary (2015)* $26,590 for photographic process workers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Most companies require film laboratory technicians to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Simply finishing high school, however, isn't enough to work as a film laboratory technician, because lab technicians must have experience working in darkrooms using photosensitive chemicals and film processing equipment. To gain the requisite experience, many students elect to enroll in photography courses or film degree programs at community colleges, 4-year colleges or universities. Individual courses usually train students on the use of specific laboratory equipment and basic darkroom techniques, while 2-year and 4-year degree programs in film typically cover a broad range of subjects, in addition to laboratory techniques, including cinematography, directing, producing, acting and editing.

Additional Requirements

Beyond developing film in a classroom setting, film laboratory technicians usually need additional on-the-job training to further develop their skill sets. This training can be obtained through apprenticeships, internships and entry-level positions. Training usually centers on how to perform day-to-day tasks such as splicing or cutting film, recognizing different types of film, mixing chemicals, properly exposing negatives and enhancing images during the film development process to create certain desired effects. Similar to other artists, film laboratory technicians improve their skills and expertise through practice and exposure over time.

Career Information

When considering a career as a film laboratory technician, it's important to recognize that, according to the Motion Picture Editor's Guild, the evolution of digital technology has directly impacted the number of jobs available to film laboratory technicians. Although employment statistics specific to film laboratory technicians aren't collected, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job rate for the similar positions of photographic process workers and pressing machine operators was expected to experience an increase of just 5.6% from 2014-2024. The BLS also reported that the median salary for workers in these careers was $26,590 in 2015. Individuals interested in working in motion picture post-production might also consider careers working as post-production editors or computer animation artists.

Film laboratory technicians are knowledgeable about dark rooms and processes related to developing film, including equipment and chemicals. Universities and colleges offer courses on the necessary skills for this career field, and work experience is also important. Job growth in this industry has been negatively affected by the evolution of digital technology.


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