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Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.
Biological technicians typically do the following:
Most biological technicians work on teams. Biological technicians typically are responsible for doing scientific tests, experiments, and analyses under the supervision of biologists or other scientists who direct and evaluate their work. Biological technicians use traditional laboratory instruments, advanced robotics, and automated equipment to conduct experiments. They use specialized computer software to collect, analyze, and model experimental data. Some biological technicians collect samples in the field, so they may need certain skills, such as the ability to hike long distances over sometimes rugged terrain to collect water samples.
Biological technicians work in many research areas. They may assist medical researchers by helping to develop new medicines and treatments used to prevent, treat, or cure diseases.
Biological technicians working in a microbiological context, sometimes referred to as laboratory assistants, typically study living microbes and perform techniques specific to microbiology, such as growing cultures in petri dishes or staining specimens to aid in their identification.
Technicians working in biotechnology apply the knowledge and techniques they have gained from basic research to product development.
Biological technicians also may work in private industry and assist in the study of a wide range of topics concerning mining and industrial production. They may test samples in environmental impact studies, or monitor production processes to help ensure that products are not contaminated.
Biological technicians working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other government agencies may perform biological testing to support agricultural research and wildlife and resource management goals.
Biological technicians hold about 79,300 jobs. The industries that employ the most biological technicians are as follows:
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||26%|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state||16|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||12|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private||10|
Biological technicians typically work in laboratories and offices, where they conduct experiments and analyze the results under the supervision of biological scientists and medical scientists. Some biological technicians who do fieldwork may be exposed to weather events and wildlife, such as mosquitoes.
Biological technicians must follow strict procedures to avoid contaminating the experiment, themselves, or the environment. Some experiments may involve dangerous organisms or toxic substances.
Biological technicians work together on teams under the direction of biologists or other scientists.
Most biological technicians work full time and keep regular hours.
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Biological technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. It is important for prospective biological technicians to gain laboratory experience while they are in school.
Biological technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. Most colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in the biological sciences.
Biological science programs usually include courses in general biology, as well as in specific subfields such as ecology, microbiology, and physiology. In addition to taking courses in biology, students must study chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Computer science courses are helpful for learning how to model and simulate biological processes and for learning how to operate some laboratory equipment.
Laboratory experience is important for prospective biological technicians, so students should take biology courses that emphasize laboratory work.
Analytical skills. Biological technicians need to conduct scientific experiments and analyses with accuracy and precision.
Communication skills. Biological technicians must understand and follow the instructions of their managing scientists. They also need to be able to communicate their processes and findings clearly in written reports.
Critical-thinking skills. Biological technicians draw conclusions from experimental results through sound reasoning and judgment.
Observational skills. Biological technicians must constantly monitor their experiments. They need to keep a complete, accurate record of their work, including the conditions under which the experiment was carried out, the procedures they followed, and the results they obtained.
Technical skills. Biological technicians need to set up and operate sophisticated equipment and instruments. They also may need to adjust equipment to ensure that experiments are conducted properly.
Prospective biological technicians should have laboratory experience. In addition to coursework, students may gain laboratory experience during summer internships with prospective employers, such as pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers, or in university laboratories.
Biological technicians may advance to scientist positions, such as microbiologist, after a few years of experience working as a technician or after earning a master’s degree or Ph.D. Gaining more experience and higher levels of education often allows biological technicians to move into positions such as natural sciences managers or postsecondary teachers.
The median annual wage for biological technicians is $41,650. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,180.
The median annual wages for biological technicians in the top industries in which they worked are as follows:
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||45,220|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private||43,390|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state||39,030|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||35,610|
Most biological technicians work full time and keep regular hours.
Employment of biological technicians is projected to grow 5 percent through 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Greater demand for biotechnology research is expected to increase the need for these workers.
Biotechnology research plays a key role in scientific advancements that improve people’s quality of life. Biological technicians will be needed to help scientists develop new treatments for diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
In agriculture, biotechnology research will be used to create genetically engineered crops that provide greater yields and require less pesticide and fertilizer. Efforts to discover new and improved ways to clean and preserve the environment also will continue to add to job growth. In addition, biological technicians will be needed to help develop alternative sources of energy, such as biofuels and better sources of renewable biomass.
Applicants who have laboratory experience, either through coursework or through previous work experience, should have the best opportunities.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2014||Projected Employment, 2024||Change, 2014-24|