A laboratory assistant student learns to prepare chemical solutions, sterilize equipment, run machinery, collect specimen samples, and record and compile results. While not required for employment, becoming certified as a laboratory assistant through a vocational program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools proves to potential employers that one has the education and experience necessary to excel in this field. Prerequisites for enrollment into the certification program include documented classroom and clinical laboratory experience.
Certification in Laboratory Assistance
Prospective laboratory assistants must develop strong analytical skills and the ability to work under pressure. A laboratory assistant program gives students the technical knowledge and skills to operate lab equipment. Students learn how to test substances and interpret numerical readouts. Topics commonly taught in laboratory assistant programs cover the following topics:
- Clinical laboratory techniques
- Body structures and functions and medical terminology
- Basic chemistry
- Laboratory safety
- Laboratory mathematics
- Quality controls
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Employment opportunities are available in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, independent research laboratories, and government agencies. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, careers for medical and clinical laboratory technicians are expected to increase 18% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. An aging population is expected to increase the need for laboratory assistants. The BLS reported the average annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was $41,420 as of May 2015.
Laboratory assistants can become technicians or technologists through additional educational programs. Aspiring laboratory technicians must compete an associate degree from a community or junior college. Prospective laboratory technologists need to graduate with a bachelor's degree and focus on classes involving microbiology, mathematics, and biological sciences.
Students who earn a laboratory assistant certificate can enter a job field projected to grow 18% over the next several years. If you are looking to advance your career and increase your earnings potential, consider pursuing an undergraduate degree to become a laboratory technician or technologist.