Lab Assistant: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Requirements

Lab assistants collect and process samples from various sources and use lab equipment to analyze them. Lab assistants must have at least a high school diploma, but most employers require a certificate or an associate's degree. Continue reading for an overview of a lab assistant career. Schools offering Medical Laboratory Professions degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Lab Assistant Job Duties

The main duty of a lab assistant is to support the professional lab technologist in collecting specimens, preparing them for analysis and running routine lab tests. As a lab assistant, you may test blood, urine, tissue and other bodily substances. Lab assistants must ensure that all necessary materials are at hand when needed. Thus, restocking materials and reagents as well as cleaning equipment and laboratory instruments are also part of the typical daily routine. Keeping track of the data obtained and accurately recording the various analyses performed are important roles for the lab assistant.

Career Outlook

Lab assistants often work in hospitals, university laboratories, private research companies and with other organizations that operate labs and perform scientific research. The job outlook for medical and clinical lab technicians is generally excellent for the period of 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov. The job growth is forecast to be 30%, which is much faster than the national average. This job growth equates to about 47,900 new jobs. Job growth is partly due to an aging population that needs more diagnostic medical tests, some of which require laboratory analysis, as well as increased medical insurance coverage that allows people to get the tests they need. The median salary for clinical and medical laboratory technicians was $37,240 in May 2012, according to the BLS.

Educational Requirements

Some lab assistants who hold at least a high school diploma may be trained on the job. However, earning an associate's degree in clinical laboratory science or a related subject is becoming the standard level of education. Some certificate programs are also available, but these are usually targeted to individuals who already have allied health training. You can find training programs at community colleges and vocational schools.

In a clinical laboratory science associate's degree program, you'll take basic science and mathematics courses. Hands-on training with basic laboratory techniques and equipment is generally provided. Some classes you may take are:

  • Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Urinalysis
  • Hematology
  • Immunohematology
  • Bioethics

Credentialing

Also, some states and employers require laboratory workers to be licensed or certified. Holding certification as a medical laboratory technician can also boost your employment prospects. Typically, you need to graduate from an accredited program and pass one or more examinations to earn a professional designation.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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