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Research Technician in Life Sciences: Education, Training & Jobs
Nature & Scope
In Life Science laboratories, a number of experiments/testing is performed using a wide variety of equipments, chemicals, drugs, cell cultures and animals. Life Science laboratory technician assists senior scientists of the lab in setting up the experiments, testing, data collection and analysis, and in writing the reports. With increasing methods and technologies to conduct an experiment, technicians with a range of specialties are required. Thus, the education needed to work as a technician in life science laboratories depends on the nature and complexities of the tests carried out routinely, and the amount of responsibility the technician can assume. The job opportunities for technicians are excellent and are expected to grow by 14 percent between 2012 and 2018.
Education & Training
Bachelor’s degree in life sciences is the preferred education to work in biological or biotechnological research laboratories. However, you will find some job advertisements asking minimum education of high school with one or two years of specialized training in job-related field. So, there is no strict education requirement for research technician position, and most employers provide on-the-job training.
In U.S., you will find several specialty-related, tailor-made courses in community and technical colleges that prepares an applicant for technician positions. Internship-type program offers students an option to study and work simultaneously.
Supplementary skills for research technician position include basic mathematical and statistical skills and knowledge of computers and Microsoft Office products. Some employers emphasize strong verbal and written communication skills and strong interpersonal skills.
Duties and Responsibilities
Research technician works under the direction of the supervisors. They are trained to independently operate lab equipments, run the experiments by following standardized protocols, data collection and assist in writing reports. Also, they are involved in preparing reagents, lab sanitization, and cleaning glass wares/equipments. Research technician, in a lab that engages animal research, may be responsible to breed and maintain mice colony, routine animal health checks, perform surgeries, inject drugs to animals, blood collection, tissue harvesting for in vitro experiments.
Senior technicians may also be responsible to train students and visiting scientists on laboratory procedures. Additionally, they perform some administrative jobs such as obtain product information, price quotes, ordering lab needs and maintain lab records.
Life science technicians are exposed to different work conditions. Although most of the work will be in regular hours, some occasionally work in weekends or late evening hours to monitor the experiment or to collect data of time-dependent experiments. Technicians are trained in safety procedures to work with hazards chemicals, toxic compounds, viruses, radioactive isotopes and radiation.
Many universities in U.S. promote career growth for research technicians, for e.g., waive tuition fee for higher education. Research technicians may be promoted to senior positions such as Lab Managers. Also, they can enroll in higher education such as Ph.D. program and become scientists.
You will find several advertisements from large and small-scale pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries looking for research technicians at both entry and experienced levels. Other potential employers are from academia/universities, healthcare, hospitals, etc. If you are interested to pursue your career as research technician in specific areas of life science such as biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology or neuroscience then you can directly contact the Principal Investigator of the lab to find about the openings.
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