A laboratory assistant works under the supervision of experienced doctors, researchers and scientists. Your role will involve gathering and processing the specimens before they will be studied. You will also prepare the equipment and the needed supplies so the experiment can take place.
As a laboratory assistant, you will find work in various settings like hospitals, research laboratories, doctors’ clinics and hospitals. The work you do will also depend on the work environment where you will be assigned in. If you happen to be a laboratory assistant for a healthcare setting, collecting specimens will be part and parcel of your work. If you are working as a lab assistant for a research facility, you will be assisting senior scientists as they conduct various scientific tasks.
Regardless of where you work, you are expected to follow the facility’s established protocols and safety procedures. Since you could be handling dangerous chemicals and potentially contagious specimens, protocol could dictate that you wear protective clothing and equipment like lab gowns, goggles, gloves and like. You are also expected to follow the proper procedures in cleaning and sterilizing the laboratory area and the equipment found there to prevent contamination and soiling of the samples.
To succeed as a laboratory assistant, you need to be detail-oriented. For example, you will be scrutinizing specimens under a microscope and you need to be able to spot the finest details that will reveal abnormal areas in the specimen so that accurate results are obtained. Since you will be working with precision instruments, fine specimens and delicate samples, dexterity is going to be an asset. Moreover, you also need to possess physical stamina since you will be on your feet for long periods of time while on duty.
Why Become A Laboratory Assistant
Those who would like to work in a healthcare or laboratory setting but don’t want to have to go through the extensive preparation to become a doctor, scientist or researcher will find that becoming a laboratory assistant will best suit them. This is because the educational preparation is short, with some positions only requiring an associate degree. In addition, this is also a well-paying career that has positive employment opportunities in the coming years.
Laboratory assistants work in general medical and surgical hospitals and medical and diagnostic laboratories. They may also work in doctor’s offices as well as in the academe where scientific research and studies are being conducted. The work is often fulltime and done during regular hours. However, those who work in hospitals and laboratories that operate 24/7 may be asked to take the evening shift or work weekends and holidays. Lab assistants must follow the lab’s safety protocols and standards and wear protective gear like clothing and goggles when working with hazardous materials.
Laboratory Assistant Salary
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, the occupational category of laboratory assistants, is $50,020. Medical and clinical laboratory technologists received higher pay at $59,460 while medical and clinical laboratory technicians were paid $40,240 a year.
Laboratory Assistant Career Outlook
The job outlook of laboratory assistants is quite positive in the next few years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the employment rate of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in general is set to grow 22 percent, a rate that is faster than the average for all job types. There will be more demand for medical and clinical laboratory technicians which is expected to grow by 30 percent than medical and clinical laboratory technologists whose growth rate is set at 14 percent. The need for laboratory assistants will be fueled by the growth of the senior population who will be getting tested for different medical conditions more frequently than other age groups. It will also be fueled by federal legislation that will require more patients to have medical insurance and consequently more access to clinical and laboratory services.
Laboratory Assistant Degree
The educational entry point for laboratory assistants depend on whether they are entering the workforce as a technologist or as a technician. For those who want to work as medical laboratory technologists, a four-year bachelor’s degree in medical technology is the typical requirement. However, a two-year associate’s degree in clinical laboratory science is enough for medical laboratory technicians. In some states, laboratory assistants may need to obtain a license before they can practice their profession.