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Job Profile: The Lab Technician

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The duties of a lab technician vary greatly, depending upon the specific application and work environment. In general, lab technicians apply science, mathematics research, and development problems.

The Job Duties of a Lab Technician

The primary distinction between the work of a lab technician and a scientist is the level of practicality associated with the position. Lab technicians focus more on practical concerns, while scientists focus primarily on theoretical issues. Lab technicians usually set up, operate, and maintain laboratory equipment. In addition, they will conduct and monitor experiments, make observations, complete and record calculations, and subsequently draw conclusions based on the results. In manufacturing applications, lab technicians may also perform production work, monitor manufacturing processes, and ensure compliance through laboratory testing for product strength, identity, safety, purity and quality.

Lab technicians are often required to maintain detailed logbooks of all experiments, particularly in work environments with regulatory oversight. In addition, lab technicians working in developmental projects often adapt laboratory procedures to achieve optimal result based upon interpretation of data and problem solving approaches. Thus, laboratory technicians must have a sound understanding of equipment in order to make adjustments and understand the results.

Requirements for Becoming a Lab Technician

The skill set required to be employed as a lab technician depends on the application. Some employers prefer that the employee have an associate’s degree in applied science or a related field, or have at least two years of specialized training. However, other employers may prefer that the lab technician have a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field. Furthermore, lab technicians will require hands-on, on-the-job training, or specialized training at an educational institution. Most lab technicians obtain foundational knowledge through education and/or training programs that provide basic scientific theory and principles. They then enhance this knowledge with practical experience obtained in a laboratory setting.

Lab technicians tend to learn the necessary specialized skills within the specific application. There are many types of lab technicians, including agricultural and food science lab technicians, biological lab technicians, chemical lab technicians, environmental science lab technicians, forensic science lab technicians, forest and conservation lab technicians, geological and petroleum lab technicians, and nuclear technicians. Lab technicians can be exposed to hazards from equipment, chemicals, or toxic materials; however, these conditions pose little risk if safety procedures are followed.

The work environment of a lab technician depends on the occupational application. Most lab technicians work indoors, generally in laboratories, with consistent hours. However, irregular shifts may be necessary when monitoring experiments that cannot be completed during standard working hours. Due to the ever-increasing sophistication of machinery and the advancements in information technology, lab technicians must possess strong computer skills and the capacity to adapt. Lab technicians must also be proficient communicators, as they will be expected to verbally report results. Organizational ability, analytical thinking, and an eye for detail are also important skills for lab technicians.
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