Laboratory Testing Technicians
Education and Training Requirements
If working as a laboratory testing technician sounds interesting to you, you can prepare for this work by taking at least two years of mathematics and a year each of chemistry and physics in high school. You should also consider taking shop classes to become accustomed to working with tools and to develop manual dexterity. Classes in English and writing will provide you with good experience doing research and writing reports. Take computer classes so that you become familiar with using databases and other software programs. If you know of a specific area that you want to specialize in, such as geology or medicine, you will benefit by taking relevant courses, such as earth science or biology.
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for finding work as a laboratory testing technician. However, a two-year associate's degree in engineering, geology, medical technology, or metallurgy—depending on the field you want to specialize in—is highly recommended. Many community colleges or technical schools offer two-year degree programs in a specific technology. Completing the associate's degree will greatly enhance your resume, help you in finding full-time positions, and allow you to advance rapidly in your field. Some technicians, such as medical technicians, may also receive appropriate training through the armed forces or through hospital certification programs.
Other Education or Training
Continuing education opportunities are provided by the American Association of Bioanalysts, American Chemical Society, American Medical Technologists, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, American Society for Clinical Pathology, and The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society. Topics include quality control, laboratory practice issues, safety, leadership, and communication and listening skills. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Depending on what type of laboratory technician you want to be, you may need certification or licensing. For example, certification for those who work as medical technicians is voluntary. However, it is highly recommended and some employers may even require it. Organizations offering certification include American Medical Technologists, American Association of Bioanalysts, and American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification. In addition, a number of states require that laboratory workers be licensed. Check with your state's occupational licensing board to find out specific requirements for your area. Moreover, make sure any program or community college you are considering will provide the courses and experience you need for licensing.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Hands-on laboratory experience is recommended for aspiring laboratory testing technicians. You can obtain this experience through laboratory classes in high school and college, and by participating in internships and part-time jobs at laboratories.
Laboratory technicians should be detail oriented and enjoy figuring out how things work. They should like problem solving and troubleshooting. For example, if you enjoy disassembling and reassembling your bicycle, tinkering with your computer, or conducting experiments in high school lab classes, you will probably enjoy being a laboratory testing technician. Laboratory technicians must have the patience to repeat a test many times, perhaps even on the same material. They must be able to follow directions carefully but also should be independent and motivated to work on their own until their assigned tasks are completed. Other important traits include good organizational and communication skills.