What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Lab Technician?

Updated March 23, 2017

Lab technicians examine biological cells, fluids and other particles in a protected laboratory environment. They perform tests to detect bacteria or cells in the process of diagnosing or treating diseases, and also work closely with crime scene investigation units to check DNA in blood or saliva samples provided by investigators.

Laboratory Technician Academic Degrees

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a laboratory technician must have a bachelor's degree in medical technology, biology or chemistry. The topic of the bachelor's degree program often determines what specific work a laboratory technician will do, as biological laboratory will often focus on cell and bacteria, while chemistry will focus on chemical reactions and mixing substances. The laboratory technician is also required to take extensive courses in microbiology, mathematics, statistics and practical laboratory work. Some employers also require the laboratory technician to have experience working with laboratory computer programs and specific computer applications.

Laboratory Equipment

A laboratory technician must also be familiar with the various laboratory equipment. This includes special tools for working with cells and bacteria, Bunsen burners, microscopes, beakers, reagent bottles, aspirators, magnetic stirrers, safety showers, static mixers, thermometers, vacuum dry boxes and fire blankets. The equipment used will vary depending on the type of laboratory, as biological laboratories will differ greatly from chemical laboratories in terms of safety procedures and cleaning and maintaining laboratory equipment.

Laboratory Licenses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics mentions that some states require laboratory technicians to register or gain a license before operating in a laboratory. Candidates who have an acceptable bachelor's degree and who have passed a laboratory examination can get laboratory registrations or licenses. Details about the examination differ from state to state, but the State Department of Health can provide details about the laboratory examination to interested candidates.


A laboratory technician may also need to get specific certifications, as many employers often desire this from laboratory technician candidates. Each certification program may have a different set of criteria, so the laboratory technician should choose the certification that suits her skills and academic background. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel and the American Medical Technologists all grant certifications.

Personal Qualifications

Laboratories and employers often seek laboratory technicians who can work under pressure, pay attention to smaller details and practice analytical judgment in laboratory work. The laboratory technician must also be able to manage time in the laboratory and communicate test results, both orally and written. They often need to share the results found in the laboratory with managers or laboratory supervisors.

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About the Author

Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.