Laboratory technician: job description

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Laboratory technicians support laboratory-based scientific investigations by carrying out a range of routine technical tasks and experiments.

A laboratory technician writing notes on a piece of paper.

Laboratory technician : Duties | Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Laboratory technicians (lab technicians) are the backbone of a scientific research lab. They carry out tasks (such as preparing samples, running investigations and recording results) that support other scientists and their work, so the role is almost entirely laboratory-based. They can work in a range of areas of science including forensics, health and manufacturing. There are also opportunities for lab technicians in educational organisations such as schools and universities.

The focus area in which a lab technician works will largely dictate the work they do. If they’re in a medical environment, they might be analysing body fluids or tissues, conducting blood tests and examining cells. If they work for a food and drink manufacturer, they might be testing food and drink samples to detect contamination or ensure quality. In a school, a lab technician might prepare samples and equipment for an experiment and ensure chemicals are stored and disposed of safely.

Typical lab technician responsibilities

A lab technician’s typical duties include:

  • conducting and supporting scientific investigations and experiments.
  • planning, setting up and undertaking controlled experiments and trials.
  • recording, analysing and interpreting data.
  • demonstrating procedures.
  • collecting, preparing and/or testing samples.
  • maintaining, calibrating, cleaning and testing sterility of the equipment.
  • providing technical support.
  • presenting results to senior staff.
  • writing reports, reviews and summaries.
  • keeping up to date with relevant scientific and technical developments.
  • supervising staff and other laboratory users (such as students).
  • carrying out risk assessments.
  • ordering and maintaining stock and resources.

Lab technicians may need to work irregular hours to fit in around the work of others using lab space and to meet project deadlines.

Graduate salaries

Salary survey websites suggest that, as a graduate lab technician, you’re likely to earn around £15,000 initially. The average salary for this role is around £21,000.

Typical employers of lab technicians

Lab technicians can typically find work at:

  • Hospitals and clinics.
  • Environmental organisations.
  • Specialist research organisations or consultancies.
  • Universities and other educational organisations.
  • The Civil Service.
  • Water companies.
  • Pharmaceutical companies.
  • Chemical companies.
  • Food and drink manufacturers.

Jobs are advertised on targetjobs , specialist recruitment agencies and on specialist job sites. Local job sites, such as those run by local authorities and newspapers, may also advertise roles in schools and businesses in specific areas.

The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.

Qualifications and training required

Both university graduates and school leavers can become lab technicians. Graduates need a degree in a relevant scientific subject such as biology, biochemistry, chemistry or physics. You will typically start off as a lab technician and work your way up to a management position or a more senior research and development role.

A school leaver can apply for an apprenticeship or an entry-level role. Typically, you’ll need GCSEs or National exams and you might also need A levels or Scottish Highers, including a scientific subject. With experience, you could progress to a supervisor role in the lab. To move into a research role, however, you would need to get a degree.

Key skills for laboratory technicians

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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