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laboratory technician working the the laboratory conducting an experiment

What is a Laboratory Technician?

A Laboratory Technician assists industry scientists with research, testing and conducting experiments. This can involve a number of different technical tasks which can vary greatly between roles. Their work is almost always laboratory-based and while they might be working alone on a specific task, they are generally working within a larger laboratory team.

Within the pharmaceutical industry, Laboratory Technicians can be employed in research and development or in production and manufacturing. All roles are likely to be primarily based in a laboratory. 

Laboratory Technicians are expected to have a good awareness of Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) and techniques but full training is usually given on the specific tasks required for each role.

What does a Laboratory Technician do?

The specific tasks of a Laboratory Technician can vary greatly depending on the laboratory they’re based in and the types of scientific work that is carried out there. Generally, though, a Laboratory Technician will conduct the routine tasks required within the laboratory, in support of the Laboratory Scientists.

All work must be carried out in strict accordance with both internal protocols and external regulations.

As examples, tasks may include:

  • Prepare and carry out diagnostic laboratory tests.
  • Operate and maintain standard laboratory equipment such as centrifuges, titrators, pipetting machines and pH meters.
  • Take precise and accurate notes of experiments and their results and sometimes interpret or present those results to senior colleagues.
  • Prepare specimens and samples.
  • Help develop new products.
  • Supervise experiments as they run.
  • Clean lab equipment and keep it in serviceable condition.
  • Routine maintenance and calibration of laboratory equipment.
  • Ensure the laboratory is well-stocked and resourced and that everything is clearly and properly labelled.
  • Mix compounds during the manufacturing process.
  • Follow strict safety procedures and safety checks.
  • Liaison with laboratory suppliers as required.

Watch this video from Careersnz on a “Day in the Life of a Medical Laboratory Technician”.

Where do Laboratory Technicians work?

Laboratory technicians work in both public and private organisations. These include:

  • Large companies in areas such as cosmetics, textiles, metal, oil and plastics
  • Hospitals and public health organisations
  • Government departments and agencies or government-funded research institutions
  • Environmental agencies
  • Utility companies
  • Forensic science institutions
  • Food manufacturing companies
  • Pharmaceutical and chemical research companies and organisations
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing companies
  • Clinical research and clinical trial companies.

Becoming a Laboratory Technician

The level of education needed for Laboratory Technicians can vary greatly depending on the role. Some employers may accept an Associate level degree, others may prefer a Bachelor’s level degree, typically in a science subject such as:

  • biology
  • biomedical science
  • biotechnology
  • chemistry
  • environmental science
  • forensic science
  • materials science/technology
  • pharmacology
  • physics

Some employers prefer a graduate, and having a relevant degree may improve your chances, particularly if competition is high. Generally, a postgraduate qualification is not required.

Depending on the country, entry without a degree is often possible as you can also find work as a laboratory technician through an apprenticeship.

Companies will often provide training for the specific duties they require of employees to ensure they are carried out in full compliance with internal and external regulations.

If you are already a Laboratory Technician but want to retrain for other science roles in Development, Manufacturing, and Quality in the Pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, check out our Conversion Course into Science Roles in Pharma.

Depending on your previous experience, here are some of the most common job titles we see advertised;

  • Quality control – Quality Control Associate, QC Associate, Quality Control (QC) Technician, QC Specialist, QC Analyst, QC Scientist, QC Specialist -LIMS
  • Quality assuranceQuality Assurance Specialist, QA Associate, Quality Assurance (QA) Technician, QA Specialist, QA Compliance Specialist, QMS/QA Specialist
  • Development – Tech Transfer Scientist Jobs, Process Technology Transfer Scientist, Transfer Scientist, Product and Process development scientists
  • Science roles that support manufacturing – Microbiology/Particle Analyst, Environmental Microbiologist, Bioprocessing Scientist, Production Scientist, Process Scientist / Specialist – Purification, Process Scientist / Specialist – In-Process Control

What Skills Do I Need?

The ideal skill set for someone moving into a Laboratory Technician role includes:

  • Numerical Skills – often needed for the successful running of experiments or reporting of results
  • Team Working – generally working as part of a lab-based team, must be able to work in close coordination with other team members
  • Attention To Detail – must be very precise in all activities, following protocols and quality procedures closely, noticing quickly if something is deviating from expected results
  • Hand-Eye Coordination – required for using laboratory equipment, handling of samples and accurate testing
  • Organisational Skills – should be running tests in a strictly methodical way as well as maintaining the overall organization of the laboratory and its supplies and equipment
  • Time Management – must be able to work on several different projects at once
  • Written Communication Skills – must keep clear and concise records of laboratory activities and experimentation results in accordance with internal SOPs as well as external regulatory requirements
  • Calibration and Maintenance – must be able to maintain and calibrate technical equipment
  • Problem Solver –  must be able to learn specific, practical techniques and apply this knowledge to solve technical problems

Laboratory Technician Salaries & Job Growth

Check out our Salary Guide for Laboratory Technicians for information local to you.

Laboratory Technician Resume Tips

As with all resumes, it’s extremely important that you tailor your Laboratory Technician resume to reflect the language used within the job advert. Where you have relevant experience or skills, use the words and phrases that the employer has used to describe them. Do not assume that someone will read similar wording and know what you mean.

Laboratory Technician roles will typically be looking for the skills previously outlined:

  • Numerical Skills
  • Team Working
  • Attention To Detail
  • Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Organisational Skills
  • Written Communication Skills

For more help with your resume, check out these templates and this list of 30 tips to improve your resume.

What Type of Jobs Can Scientists & Science Graduates Get in the Pharma Industry?

As a science graduate or scientist, you have a large and varied selection of opportunities within the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

With so many options, it can be difficult to find your feet and figure out where to start. Unfortunately, there isn’t one set of specific job titles that every company uses, and the requirements for similar jobs can (and do) change between companies.

The specific opportunities will depend on the company and what they’re manufacturing, but there are some general guidelines you can follow to make your search a little easier.

Our number one piece of advice is to read job adverts.

Until you really get to grips with industry opportunities, don’t discount jobs based on their title alone. Even jobs that sound kind of niche often have some flexibility around the degree subject and experience level required. Science roles in pharma are often more about the skills you have than the title of your degree.

But for specialist advice based on your degree subject, click on one of the links below:

Laboratory Technician Job Vacancies

For more information on currently available Laboratory Technician roles within the pharmaceutical industry, head to our pharmaceutical jobs board for Ireland and our pharmaceutical jobs board for the UK and select Science in the “Jobs by Category” menu.