Laboratory technicians or assistants work with scientists in different types of labs, such as chemical, medical or educational. Areas they work in include diagnosing diseases and developing new products.
You could be:
collecting samples and specimens for analysis
preparing cultures or specimens for testing
setting up equipment and instruments required for experiments and tests
carrying out experiments and tests
analysing and recording results, usually on computer
repairing, cleaning and sterilising equipment after use and disposing of laboratory waste
demonstrating experiments or procedures if you work in a school
checking stock, placing orders and storing supplies correctly
following strict health and safety procedures.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting salaries for laboratory technicians range from £15,000 to £18,000 a year. With experience salaries can rise to £18,000 to £25,000 and some specialist technicians and lab managers can earn £35,000 or more.
In NHS labs, healthcare science support workers on the Agenda for Change pay scales start around Band 2, £19,609 to £21,615 a year. With experience they can work their way up to Band 3, £21,709 to £23,603 a year. The current pay scales are from April 2021.
You would work under supervision in a laboratory.
Hours are usually regular but in some labs you may work shifts, on a rota basis.
In a hospital lab, you may sometimes be on call.
You might have to work with hazardous substances, such as chemicals, bacteria and radiation.
You may have to do heavy lifting of equipment.
You will probably wear a lab coat or other protective clothing and you may have to wear safety glasses for some work.
You can enter at various levels, depending on the employer. Some employers might still consider school leavers with some subjects at National 4 or 5, or equivalent including science subjects. Usually they ask for more qualifications.
You might apply after taking a full time course leading to a National Qualification (NQ), Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) in a science subject or a subject such as food technology. You do not always need formal qualifications for entry to the NQ. For entry to HNC or HND you usually need 1-2 Highers.
You might have a degree in an appropriate science subject — for entry to a degree you normally need 4-5 relevant Highers including science subjects.
You need IT skills to process and record data from experiments.
To work in a medical or educational environment with patients or students you will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
You could work in a wide variety of labs, including but not limited to, food and drink, forensic, hospital, local authority, manufacturing company, oil and gas, paint, plastics, research institution, or school, college or university.