While it is possible to become a laboratory assistant without having previous lab assistant experience or schooling, most employers are now looking for a minimum of an associate's degree in a science field. A strong knowledge of biology, math, and chemistry is helpful in this profession. Along with pertinent knowledge of field-related topics, certification can also assist in career advancement.
Lab assistants prepare and test specimens, keep records and maintain lab equipment and tools. They analyze substances from human bodies to determine whether illness or disease is present. Most lab assistants work in hospitals, physicians' offices, private labs, research organizations or clinics. No college degree is required to become a lab assistant, but employers typically hire candidates who possess a combination of formal academic training and practical experience.
|Required Education||High school diploma minimum; associate's degree in a science-related field may be preferred|
|Other Requirements||Previous work experience and/or certification may be required by employer|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||11% for all clinical laboratory technologists and technicians|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$52,330 for all clinical laboratory technologists and technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Lab Assistant Career Information
Under the supervision of lab technicians, medical technologists or pathologists, lab assistants collect, analyze and test blood and other bodily fluids and tissues. They perform tests to check for parasites, bacteria, microorganisms, infections and other medical problems. They may interpret test results to diagnose diseases and medical conditions. Lab assistants also maintain lab equipment, order supplies and equipment, log specimens and record test results.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The demand for lab technicians will grow due to the aging population's need for healthcare, which requires lab tests and procedures. The federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act, passed in 1988, requires lab technicians who perform tests to have at least an associate's degree. The median annual salary for clinical lab technologists and technicians was $52,330 as of May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov). Salaries may vary significantly depending on the employer, location and applicant's work experience.
Lab Assistant Education Curriculum
Lab assistant education courses cover subjects such as chemistry, math, hematology, computer science and microbiology. Studies emphasize phlebotomy methods and specimen handling, testing and storage. Lab assistants who will interact with patients or the public may take courses in interpersonal communications and customer service. Curricula also include courses that train students to use lab equipment and computer programs. Most lab assistant degree programs require an internship in a public or private laboratory or research organization.
High school graduates with no college-level lab assistant education may obtain some entry-level lab assistant positions. However, most employers prefer to hire applicants who hold at least an associate's degree in applied science, medical laboratory science or a related field from a community college or vocational or technical school. Lab assistant education requirements include a strong knowledge of biology, math, chemistry and lab procedures.
Certification and Licensing Requirements
State certification and licensing requirements vary. However, employers prefer to hire applicants who hold certification from a national professional organization such as American Medical Technologists (www.amt1.com). To qualify for lab assistant certification, individuals typically must provide proof of academic education and training as well as completion of a required number of clinical lab hours. Certification exams cover areas such as quality control, microbiology and hematology. According to AMT, certified lab assistants may earn higher salaries and have better opportunities for career advancement.
Lab assistant responsibilities include preparing and testing samples, caring for tools and equipment, and interpreting test results. If a lab assistant chooses to pursue a degree or certificate program, courses may include chemistry, math and microbiology as well as offer experience in lab testing duties and responsibilities. Certification is also available and may help a lab assistant in finding a job or earning a higher salary.