Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Bachelor|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||72,740|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.4%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||3,790|
- A bachelor's degree in a biological sciences major is generally required for entry-level biotechnology laboratory technician positions.
- Students should consider taking on an internship or other hands-on working opportunity while completing their studies. This added experience can provide a valuable competitive edge in the employment marketplace and greater degrees of familiarity with the laboratory environment.
What you study:
Coursework for a specialized biology degree program will typically include the following subjects:
- A wide range of biological sciences
- Chemistry and biochemistry
- Basic computer science courses
- Physics and the physical sciences
- Laboratory coursework to develop skills in the lab setting
Depending on the desired career path, students may wish to add elective coursework in business, medicine, pharmacy studies or other specialty fields.
A short overview showing what is involved in being a biotech lab tech. Created for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
Your working day will likely start in the laboratory where you will prepare your work area and ensure that all necessary equipment is in place and ready to use for your planned activities. Safety is likely to be a major concern in most laboratory settings, so you will be required to follow precise procedures and wear protective gear to ensure accuracy and safety as you perform your required tasks.
Your duties may include:
- Getting your lab area and equipment ready for the day
- Checking inventories of supplies
- Processing samples for testing and evaluation
- Keeping a sterile environment
- Testing, experimentation and research activities
- Maintaining safety as you handle blood and other biomaterials
- Documenting your steps and observations as experiments unfold
- Entering results and data into computer systems
- Compilation of results into summary reports
If you accept a position in the research and development department of a large corporation, you will often be on the front-line in developing new products and testing the safety and effectiveness of these formulas in the laboratory setting.
As a medical biotechnology laboratory technician, you will use advanced lab equipment to identify abnormalities and diseases present in blood and other biological substances. You'll test blood samples, analyze materials from biopsies and provide detailed reports on your findings via computer or printed materials. You will also put your people skills to work as you deal directly with doctors, medical personnel and patients in discussing the results of your testing.
Alternatively, you may choose to employ your talents in the biological sciences field to discover new organisms, create new treatments and blaze new trails in the biotechnology field. Your research may have applications for increased crop growth and new ways to generate food for an expanding world population. The work you do here can make a real difference in the lives of future generations.
With sufficient experience and education under your belt, you may be promoted to a management position as a lead scientist or research project supervisor.
Certifications and Licensing
No national biotechnology laboratory technician certification program has been established. However, some states may offer voluntary certifications for individuals. For example, the American Society for Microbiology provides accredited support for voluntary certification programs in the states of California and Florida.
Full-time versus part-time:
Biotechnology laboratory technicians work in the laboratory setting on a full-time basis. Some technicians may work in shifts, especially in laboratories that perform testing for health care facilities. Due to the nature of the work performed, biotechnology technicians typically must adhere to the set working hours and may be required to perform overtime on critical projects.
These useful resources can provide valuable information on educational opportunities, job prospects and other news in the field of biotechnology research and development. Additionally, biotechnology member organizations offer additional avenues for networking and connecting with others in this important scientific field.
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook -- This government website offers a comprehensive range of information on earnings potential, job responsibilities and employment prospects for those considering a career as a biotechnology laboratory technician. The site provides an in-depth look at the educational requirements and certifications necessary to achieve success in this growing industry.
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology -- Since 1912, FASEB has served as the voice of the science and biotechnology community in the larger community of society and government. Today, FASEB sponsors conferences and seminars in the biotechnology field, offers job search assistance and publishes a scholarly journal dedicated to experimental biology research results.
- American Institute of Biological Sciences -- One of the most prestigious member organizations for biology and biotechnology professionals, AIBS provides educational opportunities for students and scientists and works to represent the views and opinions of its members through the activities of the AIBS Public Policy Office. The organization also offers exclusive scientific peer review services for technicians interested in publishing their findings in the academic environment.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information -- The NCBI operates under the auspices of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and provides in-depth information on current developments and research results in the biotechnology field. The databases, tutorials and training materials available on this website will be of particular interest to biotechnology students and newcomers to this exciting career field.
- USDA National Agricultural Library -- Focusing primarily on the agricultural applications and implications of biotechnology research, the National Agricultural Library website offers information on cutting-edge research in the field of transgenic livestock, bioengineered plants for food and energy production, and many other areas of investigation within the biotechnology community.
- American Society for Microbiology -- The oldest professional organization for microbiologists and biotechnology laboratory technicians, the American Society for Microbiology publishes numerous scholarly journals and monographs and provides professional development and continuing education opportunities for members on an ongoing basis.