What does a Lab Supervisor do?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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A lab supervisor is an individual who oversees employees, tests, and experiments in a laboratory. A professional might work in a scientific research lab, a clinical lab at a hospital, or an educational facility. Supervisors are generally responsible for maintaining cleanliness and safety at all times, and making sure that other lab personnel are performing their assigned duties correctly. Other tasks of a lab supervisor may include actively leading teams of researchers on projects, personally analyzing experimental results, and writing technical and professional reports.

Scientific laboratories found at research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and biotechnology firms depend on lab supervisors to ensure projects and trials are carried out appropriately. A lab supervisor might organize a research team and explain the fundamentals of a specific experiment. He or she is often responsible for hiring technicians and scientists, acquiring materials and equipment, and obtaining finances for projects. Many supervisors write detailed lab reports based on findings and either present them to their bosses or publish them in scientific journals.

A clinical lab supervisor usually works at a hospital, medical clinic, or specialty setting. He or she oversees the technicians who perform tests on sample tissue and bodily fluids to check for the presence of diseases. Some lab supervisors work directly with technicians to analyze specimens, while others assume more administrative duties such as setting schedules and ordering supplies. When results from laboratory tests are available, the lab supervisor often explains findings to doctors and other medical personnel.


Individuals who monitor students and researchers in university labs are often designated lab supervisors. These professionals explain safety rules and regulations and make sure labs are adequately stocked with supplies. Often, many different professors conduct independent research and teach out of the same laboratory, and it is up to the lab supervisor to collaborate with them to set schedules. A supervisor may be in charge of setting up experiments and cleaning the facility, or designating such responsibilities to his or her assistants.

The educational and training requirements to become a lab supervisor can vary between job setting and employer. Most scientific research supervisors hold advanced degrees in specialties, such as microbiology or chemistry. Clinical lab supervisors are generally expected to obtain bachelor's degrees in a health science or medical technology, though some hospitals prefer to hire individuals with master's or doctoral degrees. A university lab supervisor might be a professor, general faculty member, or a student in a work study or assistantship program.


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Post 3

@browncoat - That is a very hands on position you are thinking of. I think in the lab supervisor job description you'll also find things like applying for grants and hiring and firing people and a lot of paperwork.

My uncle was the lab supervisor for a research company and to be honest he hardly ever saw the inside of the lab. He wasn't really in charge of safety, that was the safety supervisor's job.

He was more in charge of inputs and outputs, as in deciding what kind of work the lab was going to focus on and who was going to do that work and how they would deal with the results and so forth.

It depends on the position of course, but I think most of the time it's not as simple as a person in the room who barks orders at all the underling scientists.

Post 2

@Iluviaporos - Really, if you managed to get to the point of being a lab supervisor, I would hope it was because you were careful and conscientious enough to keep the lab from making those kinds of mistakes.

Danger in a lab can be prevented. I know whenever we had labs in school, the first thing my teacher did was point out all the safety equipment like the chemical shower and the rubber gloves we all had to wear.

Half the lab supervisor job is making sure nothing goes wrong and the other half is managing the people in their employee and teaching them how to react to any situation, including one in which something goes wrong.

Personally, it would make me feel safer to be in charge and know for a fact that I had covered all the bases than to have someone else in charge of me that I didn't trust.

Post 1

I think I'd be too nervous to be a lab supervisor. Maybe it would depend on what kind of lab it was, but the potential for something to go wrong seems to be pretty high.

I was always nervous during laboratory work at school as well. If you get the chemicals wrong, you could end up hurting yourself or the people around you.

There's so many things to think about, including chemical burns and smoke inhalation, and even cutting yourself on broken glass.

And that's just with chemicals, there are also labs that deal with infectious bacteria and viruses and so on.

It just seems like it would be a lot of responsibility and I don't think a lab supervisor salary would be big enough to make it worthwhile to me.

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