How to Become a Laboratory Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 10, 2020

Find out how to become a laboratory manager. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in laboratory management.

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  • 0:00 Laboratory Manager Career Info
  • 1:29 Complete Relevant Education
  • 2:30 Meet Licensure &…
  • 3:26 Gain Experience

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Laboratory Manager Career Info

Degree Level Varies; bachelor's degree typically preferred
Degree Field Related field such as medical technology
Licensing/Certification Licensure required in some states and for some positions; certification required by some employers
Experience Varies; at least 3-5 years of management experience may be required
Key Skills Good communication skills, compassion, manual dexterity, attention to detail, and stamina; ability to navigate database and medical software; familiarity with field-specific tools such as chemistry, hematology, and coagulation analyzers
Salary $69,433 (February 2020 median for all types of laboratory managers)


Laboratory managers oversee the operations of many different types of laboratories, including medical, criminal, research, and research and development labs. Lab managers supervise laboratory technologists and technicians, ensure the lab is compliant with applicable regulations, and regularly review and revise laboratory procedures. Medical laboratory managers work in hospitals, doctors' offices and stand-alone clinics, supervising staff that process specimens and samples for diagnostic purposes.

The majority of laboratory managers work at least full-time and although they have a measure of control over their hours as managers, 24-hour care centers like hospitals may require some evening, night, and/or weekend shifts. Managers, like other laboratory professionals, need to take care with samples and processing in order to avoid contamination within the samples as well as keep themselves safe from infection. Managers will often spend some time in an office setting in addition to the lab.

These professionals should have:

  • Good communication skills
  • Compassion
  • Manual dexterity
  • Attention to detail
  • Stamina
  • Ability to navigate database and medical software
  • Familiarity with field-specific tools found that laboratory managers in general earned a median annual salary of $69,433 in 2020.

Complete Relevant Education

Upon graduation from high school, those interested in working in laboratory settings may pursue a 1-year laboratory technician certificate, 2-year laboratory technologist degree, or 4-year degree in biology, biochemistry, or other health and science fields. Suitable programs include coursework in human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, epidemiology, health care management, and biochemistry. Many hiring companies may prefer candidates who hold a bachelor's degree in a related field; regardless of educational background, potential employees are expected to have additional experience working within a clinical laboratory setting.

Internships provide aspiring laboratory managers with the opportunity to learn their craft through hands-on experience under the direction of senior lab technologists and scientists. Interns with advanced training may assist technologists with reading and recording test results, processing medical specimens, and handling laboratory equipment.

Meet Licensure and Certification Requirements

Some management positions require prerequisite training as a laboratory technologist, which requires licensure in some states. Licensure requirements vary by state, but often necessitate the aspiring technologist to complete an approved educational program, have clinical experience working in a lab, and pass a licensing exam.

Employers may look for applicants with certification as a laboratory technologist, which is available from professional associations such as American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Qualifications vary, but usually require that the certification candidate hold recognized educational credentials and pass a certifying exam. Individuals with a license and/or certification should familiarize themselves with the necessary continuing education requirements and complete continuing education courses as needed for renewal.

Gain Experience

Laboratory managers often attain their higher-level position after several years of experience working as lab technicians or technologists. Depending on the job duties, some managers may have first worked in administrative positions in healthcare settings, including medical offices, clinics and hospitals. Technicians and technologists can also gain management experience by working as lab supervisors before they become lab managers.

Professional associations like the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) and American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) offer development and networking opportunities. While not an absolute requirement for becoming a medical lab manager, earning a graduate degree in a relevant field can be helpful in career development. Some possible fields to consider include master's degrees in business administration or public health or doctoral degrees in chemistry or the biological sciences.

Lab managers might also obtain the Diplomate of Laboratory Management (DLP) credential. The DLP is a recognized certification offered by the ASCP. This voluntary credential can often benefit a lab manager's career by showing advanced skill in the field. In addition to passing a certification examination, candidates for the DLP must document that they meet one of the approved sets of qualifications, comprised of various levels of education, certifications, and work experience.

In sum, aspiring laboratory managers should first seek out a bachelor's degree in a field such as medical technology or biochemistry before going on to earn experience in the field and potentially even seeking licensure or certification.

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