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Laboratory technician

Alternative titles for this job include Lab technician, lab assistant

Laboratory technicians carry out tests on samples for scientific research, product development and medical diagnosis.

Average salary (a year)

£20,000 Starter

to

£28,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

37 to 40 a week

You could work

weekends on shifts

Meet Donna

Donna works in a laboratory as a technician. Her specific job title is senior microtarget fabricator.

2 minute 20 second watch

View transcript

My main ambition in life was to have a family and become a mum. So in truth, I wasn't particularly career driven. The fact that I'm now involved in research as a microtarget fabricator is something that I would never have imagined.

My name's Donna Wyatt, I'm a senior microtarget fabricator, here in the Central Laser Facility, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

My main role here is to produce microtargets for the visiting scientists to conduct their laser experiments. The lasers here at Rutherford are used in a variety of different research projects. For example, looking into improved treatments for cancer and also fusion energy. These microtargets that I produce are often made up of multi components that are around the same size as a human hair. So we're talking really, really small.

So I use a range of micro tools to create these targets and depending on the specification, these targets can take anything from two minutes to two to four hours.

Initially, I wasn't very confident I'd be any good at this job as I don't have a science background. To this day I still really suffer with imposter syndrome, as a lot of my colleagues went to university and I didn't. My confidence must have grown because I've been here almost 26 years.

Donna's one of only, maybe two or three people in the UK that has got the skills

to be able to manipulate and assemble these targets to the accuracies that are required.

To know that she makes sure that everything that leaves a lab to go to the experimental groups is perfect, is well assembled, and she really cares about what she does and that's incredibly important for the team and for the facility as a whole.

Having always worked full time and having my children, I have suffered from a lot of mum guilt. I recently brought my now grown up son into the lab to show him what I do and how I do it. And when he left that day, he text me to say how proud he was of me. It made me realise that you can have a brilliant career and still be a good parent at the same time.

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become a laboratory technician

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly

University

You can do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in a scientific subject to work as a laboratory technician. 

Subjects include:

  • biomedical science
  • environmental science
  • forensic science
  • materials science
  • pharmacy
  • biology, chemistry or physics

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 3 A levels or equivalent

More Information

College

You could take a college course to help improve your chances of finding a trainee lab assistant position.

You could do a course such as:

  • applied science
  • environmental science
  • chemistry, physics or biology
  • T Level in Science

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for these courses vary.

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T Level

More Information

Apprenticeship

You could apply for a Laboratory Technician Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship or a Technician Scientist Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship.

These apprenticeships can take between 2 and 3 years to complete.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

More Information

Direct Application

You can apply for work as a lab technician if you have experience in a:

  • university research lab
  • clinical laboratory in a hospital
  • manufacturing or industrial research facility
  • school or college science department

More Information

Professional and industry bodies

You can register with a professional body linked to your area of work for career development and training opportunities.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a laboratory technician from the Science Council and Health Careers.

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • science skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to work well with others
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • maths knowledge
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

As a laboratory technician, you could:

  • set up experiments and investigations
  • prepare solutions, cultures and specimens
  • analyse samples using scientific instruments
  • collect and present data and statistics
  • calibrate, clean and maintain equipment, and follow safety rules

Possible green job

This job could help the environment.

For a laboratory technician to be a green job, you could:

  • work with scientists to develop more energy efficient products
  • test soil and water samples to check for toxins and pollutants
  • analyse data from crop experiments to limit the effects of pests and diseases

Find out more about green careers

Working environment

You could work in a laboratory, at a university or at a manufacturing plant.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could:

  • become a lab supervisor or lab manager
  • specialise in complex analysis work
  • apply to become a Registered Science Technician to develop your career

You could also take further training at degree or postgraduate level to become a research scientist.

Current opportunities

Find apprenticeships, courses and jobs available near you.

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Laboratory Technician Apprentice

  • Wage: Competitive salary Annually
  • Location: Lichfield Road, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton

Courses In England

Applied Science

  • Provider: HULL COLLEGE
  • Start date: 03 September 2024
  • Location: Hull

Applied Science

  • Provider: PRINCE HENRY'S HIGH SCHOOL
  • Start date: 01 September 2024
  • Location: Evesham

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