Medical Laboratory Assistant: Job Duties & Career Info

Mar 22, 2019

Explore the work responsibilities of a medical laboratory assistant. Learn about bachelor's degree requirements, employment outlook and salary to make an informed career decision.

Career Definition for a Medical Laboratory Assistant

Medical laboratory assistants, which are a specific subgroup of lab technologists and technicians, work in clinics, hospitals and private labs. Their duties include running lab tests and preparing specimens. Some common medical laboratory assistant tasks also include planting microbiology specimens, performing routine and specialized tests, preparing and staining slides for analysis, performing phlebotomy, recording testing information, cleaning and restocking the lab facility, keeping inventory, and ordering lab supplies.

Education Bachelor's degree in medical technology or a life science
Job Skills Detail-oriented, work well in teams, good communication skills
Median Salary (2017)* $51,770 (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 12% (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

For an entry-level career as a medical laboratory assistant, you'll likely need at least a bachelor's degree in medical technology or one of the life sciences. Depending on the workplace and the position, it may be possible to substitute a combination of education and work experience. Courses in a 4-year bachelor's program that would prepare you for a career as a medical laboratory assistant include microbiology, chemistry, biological science, statistics, mathematics, and courses with hands-on lab work.

Skill Requirements

Medical laboratory assistants handle various specimens and tests for many different patients; it is critical that they are detail-oriented and diligent in handling their workload and processing these tests. The ability to work well in team settings and skills in communication are also crucial to succeeding as a medical laboratory assistant.

Career and Economic Outlook

The employment outlook for medical and clinical laboratory technologists, the larger group into which medical laboratory assistants fall, is expected to be much faster than average; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, projects employment in this field to grow 12% from 2016-2026. Median annual earnings in May 2017 for medical and clinical lab technologists were $51,770, per the BLS.

Alternative Careers

Similar careers to a medical laboratory assistant include:

Biological Technician

For those who like to study samples of living materials but want to explore beyond medical analysis, a career in biological technology should be considered. Biological technicians prepare lab samples that include water, blood, food and bacteria. They also carry out experiments and tests to determine the contents and characteristics of the samples, identifying organisms and diseases. Most biological technicians will need to earn a bachelor's degree in biology or another related scientific field in order to enter the profession. The BLS predicts that around 8,400 new jobs will be created for biological technicians during the 2016-2026 decade, an increase of 10%. These technicians should earn $43,800 in median wages, based on a May 2017 estimate from the BLS.

Chemical Technician

Chemical technicians also perform tests in a laboratory setting, but they focus on analyzing chemical compounds to improve existing and new products. They perform many research and development activities that include operating lab equipment, creating reports from test results, mixing solutions in a controlled environment and working to improve processes. For entry-level positions, an applied science or chemical technology associate degrees is required, and hands-on laboratory internships are very important. As seen in 2017 BLS statistics, chemical technicians received a median yearly salary of $47,280. Average employment growth is expected by the BLS from 2016-2026, with an increase of 4%.

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