A biological technician helps conduct laboratory tests, experiments, and complete other tasks in an active laboratory. This can include cleaning lab supplies, collecting samples, analyzing results, and helping scientists and engineers with their work.
There are several fields that employ this type of technician, including agriculture, environmental science, health science, and resource management. Much of their work is guided by a lead scientist or other professional.
- The work done can benefit many different people.
- Able to complete work with a small group without needing to explain it to the public.
- There is room to move up as a supervisor, or to explore related fields easily.
- Able to specialize in a science you are truly interested in.
A typical day as a Biological Technician will take place in a laboratory. There are several tasks these professionals perform to help support the science team in charge of research:
- Keep the laboratory equipment clean and in working order – such as microscopes, test tubes, and scales.
- Perform specific tests on collected material. This may involve growing bacteria and trying different ways to affect it.
- Carefully collect data on experiments and write it up for the lead scientists.
- Collect the samples needed for study. This can include blood, food, or even stool samples.
Technicians frequently use computers to help analyze both their samples and their data. If they are in an environmental science, they will often travel outside to collect these samples. Medical technicians will often collect samples in a clinic or from a doctor’s office.
- Excellent Communication Skills, primarily reading and writing
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Strong Attention to Detail and pay close attention for long periods of time.
- Able to learn actively
- Able to work alone
- Able to follow strict directions
- Computer systems including Data Analysis and Spreadsheets
- Laboratory skills, both safety and in conducting experiments
- Able to use Lab Equipment such as drying cabinets, DNA Sequencers, pipettes, or tools specific to the chosen field.
- A Research and Development Firm
- College or University
- A Federal or other Public laboratory
A biological technician may need to be willing to travel to find a job when they are starting out. Even though this field is growing, competition for the jobs is difficult. There are many technician jobs funded by grants, which means many of these jobs are temporary. It can take some time building experience in these positions before you are able to find a permanent place to work.
Competition is especially tough for College and University jobs. You may work in a lower level position for a few years before you move up. Classes for biology are considered some of the hardest at the college level. Being able to focus on schoolwork is very important.
This job can also include exposure to hazardous materials. If you are working in a disease laboratory, you will need to be sure you are protected from any dangerous substances.
Specializations for Biological Technicians continue to get tighter, meaning these positions focus on more specific diseases. For example, there are several different types of lung cancer. Labs and scientists are focusing on specific types.
As new sciences emerge, there will be new fields for technicians to work in. One new area is synthetic biology which uses organisms like bacteria to break down pollution like plastic or to create helpful items like fuel.
It is a field that rewards constant learning.
- Science experiments and math puzzles
- Exploring nature
- Making the same recipes with different tweaks
- Biological Technicians usually need a bachelor’s in biology, physical science, or natural resources
- Some technicians can start working without a bachelor’s if they have sufficient lab experience
- Common courses include math, physics, ecology, microbiology, and physiology
- Per O*Net Online, 49% of workers in this field have a bachelor’s, 29% have a master’s, and 14% hold a post-bacc certificate — for example, Cal State LA’s Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in Biotechnology
- Lab experience is critical and obtained via college programs and Biological Technician internships
- Common software to learn includes analytical or scientific programs, database software, geographic information systems, graphics imaging software, map creation programs, and project management tools
- Licensure and certification aren’t required
- Start your long educational journey with a solid foundation in biology, math, and chemistry
- Zippia suggests taking computer science courses “for learning how to model and simulate biological processes and for learning how to operate some laboratory equipment”
- Gain lab experience through Biological Technician internships
- Decide which subfield to specialize in, such as ecology, microbiology, or physiology
- Think about your long-term career goals. Many technicians go on to become Microbiologists or Biochemists
- Join professional organizations to learn, grow, and network (see our Recommended Resources > Websites for a list of options)
- Roughly 32% of Biological Technicians work in scientific R&D, 25% work at colleges and universities, and 10% work for governmental agencies
- BLS projects increased job opportunities in certain areas such as synthetic biology, biofuels, and disease research
- Ensure you have a strong mix of academic credentials, lab experience, and relevant work experience
- Biological Technician internships are a great way to get experience in the field
- During college, obtaining and doing well in an internship will help you build connections in your field. This means you will have mentors and friends who can recommend you for open technician positions. Your college professors will also help, so be sure to build a strong relationship with your teachers.
- An internship will also provide valuable laboratory experience. Being able to demonstrate you know how to safely work in a lab will provide future employers with confidence.
- Sign up for alerts on job portals such as Indeed, Simply Hired, Glassdoor, and Zippia
- Stay active with professional organizations. Attend conferences, make connections, and let your network know when you’re looking for a new job
- Relocate to where the work is! Consider which states have the highest employment level for Biological Techs — such as California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington
- Review Biological Technician resume templates to get ideas for wording and formats
- Study Biological Technician interview questions to prepare for job interviews!
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- American Association for Cancer Research
- American Association for Clinical Chemistry
- American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Chemical Society
- American Fisheries Society
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- American Society for Cell Biology
- American Society for Clinical Pathology
- American Society for Microbiology
- Association of Genetic Technologists
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
- International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics
- Biochemistry For Dummies, by John T. Moore and Richard H. Langley
- Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, by David L. Nelson and Michael M. Cox
- Lippincott Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry, by Emine E. Abali, Susan D. Cline, et al.
As a laboratory assistant, a Biological Technician can often move into a different field. Some examples are chemistry, geology, food science, agriculture, or forensic science. Other fields that may hire individuals with research skills are medicine and social sciences.
Many Technicians will obtain a Masters Degree after a few years experience. This allows them to move into a lead scientist role where they will supervise their own lab technicians. Fields of study could be microbiology, epidemiology, or other specializations.
The hardest part of becoming a Biological Technician will be college. Take time to practice rigorous study skills to be able to excel in classes. Your GPA may not matter when it is time to find a job, but it will if you plan to move up via a Masters program.
It can be helpful to complete your required classes early in your college career. This will provide you with time to research which specialization you are interested in. Don’t worry if you do not get a job in a specific lab at first. With hard work and strong networking skills, you will be able to find a job in your chosen specialization.