How to Become a Laboratory Scientist

By Eric Hammer

Want steady work where you know you'll pretty much be in a recession proof job? Then you should definitely consider becoming a laboratory scientist. Also known as a laboratory technician, a laboratory scientist processes various samples left by people visiting the doctor so that they can check for various signs of diseases.

Every time your doctor hands you a little cup to pee in, every time you have blood drawn or a culture done at the doctor's office, it goes to a laboratory scientist to be examined and the results are then sent back to the doctor. The work is not particularly dangerous as you will always be wearing gloves and other appropriate protective gear and the best part about it is that the work is fairly steady.

This is especially true these days, as the Obama health care plan begins to go into effect. Given the increasing numbers of Americans who will be getting health insurance shortly, you can be certain that the need for new laboratory scientists will only increase exponentially.

How Much Can You Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary in 2008 for a laboratory scientist was approximately $53,000 per year.

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Keep in mind that your work will generally not involve much interaction with patients or even with other people since you will typically process your samples in a lab which is separated from the patients coming to visit. If you happen to be in a smaller lab, you may well be there all on your own. Thus if your motivation for working in medicine is to work with people, you may want to consider an alternative career such as physical therapist or registered nurse.

On the other hand, for those looking for steady, quiet work, becoming a laboratory scientist is generally a good idea. The work does however require you to be somewhat repetitive in your tasks since you will largely be performing the same tests over and over again rather than doing something new every day.

Being able to maintain a safety routine is also very important for a laboratory scientist. You need to make sure that you always wear gloves, dispose of any sharps in the appropriate containers and handle all human samples with great care since there is a real chance to get very sick or even die if you don't follow safety protocols.

Qualifications / Requirements

Generally, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in order to become a laboratory scientist, though in some cases an associate degree will be enough. In all cases, expect to do plenty of on the job training and expect to need continuing education to learn about new tests as they come on the market. In some states, a licensing exam may also be required along with a certain amount of on the job experience.

First Steps

Start by finishing a degree in medical technology or a related field and then contact your state licensing bureau to check if they have additional licensing requirements.

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