How do I Become a Lab Assistant?

Nat Robinson

A laboratory assistant or lab assistant is an individual who provides assistance in a laboratory. In general, lab assistants prepare specimens for testing, carry out specialized tests and oversee the upkeep of various types of lab equipment. There are different types of lab assistants. The duties of the assistant may change according to his or her specialty. Laboratory assistants are frequently employed by medical laboratories in hospitals and doctor offices, research schools and organizations and private laboratories.

Lab assistants must be able to operate centrifuges and other types of lab equipment.
Lab assistants must be able to operate centrifuges and other types of lab equipment.

To become a lab assistant an individual will need to complete his or her high school education. Obtaining a high school diploma is generally the first step of entering this frequently selected career path. After high school graduation, the next step is to enter a degree program. Although, some people may be able to find an entry-level laboratory job with a high school diploma, most employers will generally request more substantial education. Individuals interested in this career field commonly obtain an associate's degree and some enter a bachelor's program.

A lab assistant holding a urine sample.
A lab assistant holding a urine sample.

Usually, individuals interested in becoming a lab assistant will choose a major in the sciences. Some of the most frequently pursued majors include chemistry, microbiology, biology and hematology. In addition, a degree program in medical technology or a closely related subject may be pursued as well. Many community and technical colleges offer two-year degree programs for lab assistant training. Some people choose to attend a larger college or university and acquire a bachelor's degree instead.

Lab assistants usually focus on an area of study, such as biology or chemistry.
Lab assistants usually focus on an area of study, such as biology or chemistry.

An individual interested in becoming a laboratory assistant will additionally need to determine the type of assistant he or she wishes to be. A medical lab assistant typically works in a physician's office or hospital. These types of assistants generally spend their days analyzing blood tests, urine tests and other types of medical tests. Some people may elect to become a research lab assistant, who generally works under the direct supervision of a research scientist. Individuals working in this area may keep large records of data, preserve and test tissue samples, perform dissections and write research summary reports.

Lab assistants often prepare specimens for testing.
Lab assistants often prepare specimens for testing.

To find employment as a laboratory assistant in the medical field, it may be beneficial to inquire at hospitals, outpatient facilities and doctor offices. For a person interested in working as a research assistant in a lab, he or she may benefit from inquiring directly to the research department of local colleges and universities. Different employment sites will typically have different prerequisites and requirements for a laboratory assistant. Some employers may hire a person with a high school diploma and provide on the job lab assistant training, while most will typically require at least an associate's degree. In addition, certification or a license may be requested by certain employers as well.

In generally, lab assistants are responsible for overseeing the upkeep of various types of lab equipment.
In generally, lab assistants are responsible for overseeing the upkeep of various types of lab equipment.
Chemistry, biology and microbiology are among the most frequently pursued majors for future lab assistants.
Chemistry, biology and microbiology are among the most frequently pursued majors for future lab assistants.
Lab assistants often work in hospital medical laboratories.
Lab assistants often work in hospital medical laboratories.
Assistants at a university may be tasked with helping students in the lab.
Assistants at a university may be tasked with helping students in the lab.
Lab assistants are often tasked with keeping inventory and ordering supplies.
Lab assistants are often tasked with keeping inventory and ordering supplies.

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