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Life Science Technician: Job Description and Career Advancement Info

Sep 27, 2019

Life science technicians require a moderate amount of formal education. Learn about the education and job duties to see if this is the right career for you.

Many life science technicians work in the medical, pharmaceutical, chemical and agricultural industries assisting in the research of living things. Life scientists set up and maintain necessary equipment, prepare specimens and observe and take notes. Since a life science technician is an assistant position, an associate degree is the minimum for entry-level work although some industries may require a bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

Life science technicians, also known as biological technicians, work in a variety of industries. They often work in a laboratory, but some may conduct research in other locations. Their principle responsibilities include assisting scientists in the research of living things and maintaining laboratory equipment. Employers require an associate's degree, but a bachelor's degree is recommended for advancement.

Required Education Associate's degree; bachelor's degree is recommended for advancement
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 7% (biological technicians)*
Median Salary (2018) $44,500 annually (biological technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Life Science Technician Job Description

In general, life science technicians typically work in laboratories assisting scientists in the research of living organisms and organic substances. Life science technicians are more commonly called biological or bioscience technicians; there is also a subset of these workers known as biotechnology technicians. Many of these technicians work in the medical, pharmaceutical, chemical and agricultural industries. While the job duties of biological and biotechnology technicians often overlap, there are some differences in their work.

Biological and bioscience technicians working in medicine assist scientists in the study of diseases, such as cancer. Those working in microbiology study pathogens and living organisms. Others may help develop new pharmaceuticals or food products. The majority of these technicians work in laboratories, but some may work out in the field. For example, biological technicians may conduct wildlife and ecological research in various outdoor environments.

The main focus of biotechnology technicians is to assist with procedures in the lab, such as antibody and enzyme assays, DNA manipulation, cell cultures and protein purification. The results of the tests are often applied toward the development or improvement of products and services. Biotechnology technicians may work on scientific procedures for such purposes as increasing the efficiency of livestock rearing and breeding, altering crops to improve pest control or developing medical testing devices.

Job Duties for Life Science Technicians

Job duties vary depending on the employer, but life science technicians generally set up and use the equipment and instruments needed for lab testing. They also keep their instruments clean, calibrated and in good repair. Technicians collect and prepare specimens, make observations, record results and prepare reports.

Career Advancement Info for Life Science Technicians

Entry-level work in bioscience and biotechnology generally requires an associate's degree in life science, bioscience technology or biotechnology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, technicians typically start out being supervised by scientists or more experienced technicians and then take on more responsibilities over time (www.bls.gov). These technicians may eventually become supervisors.

Some technician jobs, such as biotechnology technicians, may require a bachelor's degree in life science, biology, natural resources, biotechnology or a similar field. These technicians may advance to scientist positions after a few years of technician experience or upon completion of a graduate degree.

Career Info

The BLS reported an average increase slightly faster than average in job opportunities for biological technicians during the 2018-2028 time period. These technicians earned an average of $48,060 in May 2018 though those working in the top-paying industries earned substantially more per year. For example, those working in the management of companies and enterprises earned an average of $55,190 while the scientific research and development services industry paid their technicians an average of $50,630, and biological technicians working in hospitals earned average wages of $49,830 (www.bls.gov).

Life science technicians may work in laboratories or in the field assisting scientists with their research. Their job responsibilities depend on their industry. For example, those in the medicinal field may assist in cancer and disease research. An associate's degree is required for entry-level positions, however some fields, including biotechnology, need a bachelor's degree in life sciences, natural resources or a similar area.

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