Laboratory Analyst: Job Description and Education Requirements

A career as a laboratory analyst requires little formal education. Learn about the degree, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A laboratory analyst helps to conduct experiments, run laboratory tests and analyze results. You'll need at least an associate's degree to begin your career but many employers prefer someone with a bachelor's degree or more advanced degree. This article looks at facts about three relevant occupations: biological technician, medical and clinical laboratory technician and medical and clinical laboratory technologist.

Essential Information

Laboratory analysts (also called laboratory technologists or technicians) are professionals who perform tasks such as conducting tests and analyzing the results, maintaining work spaces and preparing experiments. Analysts can work in the field of criminal justice, medicine or manufacturing. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required.

Biological Technician Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist & Technician
Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree Associate's or bachelor's degree
Certification Voluntary Voluntary
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 7%* 11%
Median Salary (2018) $44,500* $52,330 *

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Laboratory Analyst Job Description

The specific nature of any laboratory analyst position will vary between industries and scientific fields. Laboratory analysts are often assigned continuing tasks, such as cleaning, data entry and monitoring the progress of experiments. A number of laboratory analysts are entrusted to scrutinize laboratory results for commonplace procedures, like drug testing. Certain duties of laboratory analysts are performed under the strict supervision of scientists running laboratories or experiments.

Responsibilities

Laboratory analysts hold a broad range of responsibilities, including maintaining the integrity of procedures and recording professional activity for peer review. In some settings, laboratory analysts are allowed to develop new testing procedures and technologies. Maintaining lab equipment requires laboratory analysts to sterilize tools and order replacement supplies.

There are numerous fields in which laboratory analysts can specialize, such as criminal justice, medicine or manufacturing. Specialized equipment and complicated concepts usually lead laboratory analysts to focus their work in a given area. Laboratory analysts employed by companies involved in manufacturing help to maintain product consistency and safety. Work in medical laboratories involves analyzing patient samples for diagnostic purposes.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the total number of positions available for laboratory analysts will increase in the next few years (www.bls.gov). Biological technician jobs will increase by 7%, job growth about as fast as the average for all occupations, between 2018 and 2028, BLS data projected. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians and technologists can expect a much faster than average job growth of 11% during those same years, the BLS reported.

Salary Information

The median annual wage for biological technicians was $44,500 in May 2018, reported the BLS. The highest-earning ten percent of these technicians were paid an annual average salary of $71,440 in that same time period.

As of May 2018, the BLS reports, medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a median annual wage of $52,330. The highest-paying industry for these technicians was whole electronic markets and agents and brokers, followed by professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers.

Education Requirements for Laboratory Analysts

Individuals looking to pursue a career as a laboratory analyst should have some level of undergraduate education, such as an associate's or bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, most entry-level clinical lab technologists have at least a bachelor's degree, while lab technicians usually enter the field with an associate's degree or a certificate. The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act mandates that lab technologists who perform intricate or involved tasks must hold at least an associate's degree.

Laboratory analysts can come from a wide array of academic backgrounds, including life sciences, medical technology, economics and psychology. Degrees in subjects related to science and technology are most common among laboratory analysts. Some laboratory analysts have specialty certification in science, mathematics and technology.

Curriculum

Courses in science-based degree programs include research components that can prepare individuals for careers as laboratory analysts. Additional mathematics requirements can also make candidates desirable to employers. Along with traditional classes, students might take subjects in quantitative analysis and research methods.

Certification and Licensing Requirements

There is no required certification process for becoming a laboratory analyst. However, interested candidates can earn certification from professional associations such as the American Medical Technologists, the American Association of Bioanalysts or the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification. Certification is voluntary, but the BLS noted that employers often prefer job applicants who are certified. A few states, but not all, require laboratory analysts to meet minimum education requirements and obtain licensing or registration.

A laboratory analyst can work as a medical and clinical technician or technologist or as a biological technician, jobs that cover a broad range of duties. All these positions require undergraduate education in the sciences, and some states mandate licensing or registration for certain positions. Professional certification is not mandatory, but can be helpful for career advancement.

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