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As a Laboratory Technician, you will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the laboratory. You will have a variety of duties, including:
- managing equipment stocks, ordering replacements when necessary
- disposing of laboratory waste
- preparing and maintaining equipment
- taking and testing samples
- recording and analysing experiment results
- reporting findings to the scientist, verbally or in writing
- identifying hazards in the lab and assessing risks
Laboratory Technicians work at different levels of responsibility. Senior Laboratory Technicians might have more responsibility for experiment work, report writing and lab management. You might have duties such as giving on-the-job training to other Laboratory Technicians, supervising staff, or managing health and safety procedures.
For many types of work, you will need to wear protective clothing such as coats, gloves, eye protection and safety footwear.
You will use a wide variety of laboratory equipment and materials in your work. This includes using computers, for example, to monitor stock levels and record experiment results.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Laboratory Technician, you will need:
- observation skills and attention to detail
- a thorough and methodical approach to your work
- the ability to record test results accurately and write reports of your findings
- teamwork skills: you might work closely with Scientists, Technologists, Teachers, Lecturers and other Technicians
- initiative and the ability to work without supervision
- the ability to use a wide variety of laboratory equipment
- computer and word-processing skills
- an enquiring mind, with willingness to learn and develop new skills
Some Laboratory Technicians work with hazardous substances and potentially dangerous materials and equipment. It is important to follow instructions carefully, learn and use safe working practices, and wear protective clothing or use protective equipment when needed.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £17,500 - £18,000
- With experience: £19,000 - £22,000
- Senior Laboratory Technicians earn £24,500 - £27,500
Hours of work
Laboratory Technicians usually work 35 to 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday.
Where could I work?
Employers are companies in a wide variety of industries, including:
- colour technology
- food and drink
Other opportunities are with forensic science laboratories, the NHS and government departments. Laboratory Technicians also work in schools, colleges, medical and veterinary colleges, universities and research facilities.
Opportunities for Laboratory Technicians occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in science magazines and journals, including New Scientist (which also posts jobs on its website). They also appear on job boards, in local/national newspapers, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.
Entry Routes and Training
Most people enter a post and then have training on-the-job. It's possible to enter and train through an Intermediate, Advanced Level or Degree Apprenticeship. Take a look at our information article
Apart from training on-the-job, you might have part-time study by day- or block-release for relevant qualifications. These could include BTEC level 3 qualifications, foundation degrees and degrees.
If you would like some training, you could take a NVQ in laboratory and associated technical activities. This course has a range of units, which include:
- maintaining health and safety in a scientific or technical workplace
- maintaining effective and efficient working relationships for scientific or technical activities
- evaluating and provide scientific or technical assistance for learning activities
- diagnosing faults, repair and maintain scientific or technical equipment for workplace activities
- providing training for scientific or technical activities in the workplace
- demonstrating scientific or technical methods, techniques and skills to others in the workplace
- improving the quality and reliability of scientific or technical activities in the workplace
- testing and evaluate new scientific or technical methods and equipment for learning activities
- providing technical support for computer application software and equipment for learning activities
- preparing new scientific or technical methods, resources and equipment for learning activities
- carrying out sampling operations for scientific or technical tests
- following aseptic procedures in the laboratory environment
Other courses could be available in your area.
Some entrants will have relevant experience within a laboratory environment. Previous experience in any associated science subject will help you get into this career.
Registered Science Technician (RSciTech)
The Science Council has launched a new register for professional Technicians. Registration recognises Technicians' vital role and raises their profile: becoming a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) will help ensure that your expertise is properly recognised by employers and others within the science community. Registration is through membership of one of a number of recognised professional bodies.
To register, you'll usually need a relevant level 3 qualification, such as an AS or A level, level 3 NVQ or BTEC level 3 national. For more information, please see the Science Council website.
You could progress to a Supervisor, Team Leader or senior position.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
In some posts, for example, in schools and further education colleges, working as a Laboratory Technician is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
Most employers ask for at least 4/5 GCSEs at grades A*-C or 9-4, including maths, English and science or one of the relevant separate science subjects, or equivalent.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths. Take a look at our information article
To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.
Laboratory Technicians often have higher qualifications, such as A levels or equivalent, and some have HNDs, foundation degrees or degrees.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have a background in laboratory work, for example, as a routine tester or assistant.
It is possible to enter and train through an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship or Advanced Level Apprenticeship (Laboratory and Science Technicians).
- 20% of laboratory technicians work part-time.
- 16% have flexible hours.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Local government vacancies
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies
Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd
Address: Brooke House, 24 Dam Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13 6AA
Tel: 01543 254223
Address: Unit 5, Mandarin Court, Centre Park, Warrington, Cheshire WA1 1GG
Tel: 01925 515200
Institute of Science & Technology (IST)
Address: Kingfisher House, 90 Rockingham Road, Sheffield S1 4EB
Tel: 0114 2763197