Should I Become a Biological Science Technician?
Biological science technicians assist medical and biological scientists and perform experiments and laboratory tests. Their job duties include analyzing data, interpreting results, writing reports and setting up, maintaining and cleaning laboratory instruments and equipment.
Biological technicians split their time between office and laboratory settings. Some may do fieldwork, during which times they may be exposed to harsh weather and rough landscape conditions. Almost all technicians work within teams and are employed full-time.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Biology or similar fields|
|Key Skills||Observation, analytical, writing, listening and critical-thinking skills; strong judgment, communication and decision-making skills; ability to use spreadsheet, graphics or photo imaging, word processing and database software; ability to set up and operate sophisticated instruments and lab equipment|
|Salary (2014)||$41,290 (median for biological technicians)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job postings by employers (November 2012), O Net OnLine.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree in biology is typically needed to work as a biological science technician. One can also pursue bachelor's degree programs in biological science or closely related fields. As a student in a biology or biological science degree program, one can expect to take courses in general biology, mathematics, physics and chemistry. Most schools offering these degree programs present students with the option to pursue a specialized area within the field of biology, such as microbiology, botany wildlife biology, ecology, aquatic biology and fisheries or molecular biology. This gives students the opportunity to customize their education based on their specific career goals.
- Take courses in computer science. Courses in computer science can help students learn about how to operate some laboratory equipment and prepare them for stimulating biological processes and modeling. This information can be valuable once a student begins working in a laboratory. To receive this type of training, students can pursue electives in computer science.
Step 2: Gain Laboratory Experience
Previous experience in a laboratory environment is important to many employers in this field. The majority of bachelor's degree programs in biological sciences and biology offer students numerous opportunities to gain laboratory experience. In addition to taking courses that contain a laboratory component, students should work in research labs on campus. This provides the student with the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience while collaborating with professors and other faculty members. Students can also participate in research projects to receive course credit and have their work published in journals. Participating in an internship outside the university setting can also provide students with valuable laboratory experience.
- Become familiar with lab equipment. While in school, students should familiarize themselves with the lab equipment used in different types of research. Some of the equipment a technician might use includes automated cell counters, robotic laboratory equipment, fluorometers, microscopes, scales and polymerase chain reaction PCR equipment. Undergraduates can help prepare themselves for their future careers by becoming familiar with how different laboratory equipment is used.
Step 3: Gain Employment
Biological science technicians can find employment in a variety of areas, such as the federal government, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, colleges, universities and research and development in the engineering, physical and life sciences. Many people in this career field work in teams and often work in many different areas of research. Most employers prefer to hire biological science technicians who have previous experience, although some who accept combinations of education and experience to meet job requirements. While working in this field, one can expect a variety of job duties, including testing and examining specimens, documenting and recording information, assisting in manuscript and grant writing, processing information and conducting literature searches.
Step 4: Gain Experience and an Advanced Degree
With a few years experience, biological science technicians may move into advanced positions such as biological scientist or natural sciences manager. Earning a graduate degree in biology or a related field may also lead to career advancement.