What does a Laboratory Director do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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A laboratory director is a member of a laboratory staff who is responsible for overseeing operations at the laboratory and any related facilities. People in this position tend to have a great deal of training and experience, especially if they are supervising labs which engage in complex tasks, brand new research, or work with dangerous substances. A well-qualified laboratory director can usually find work anywhere, and employment prospects in this field are quite good in many regions of the world.

To become a laboratory director, a candidate must usually be a medical doctor or hold a PhD, depending on the type of lab. In addition to fulfilling these educational requirements, laboratory directors also need to have practical lab experience, with labs usually preferring at least three years of experience. Many laboratory directors are drawn from the existing staff of a lab when a previous laboratory director steps down, as high-ranking staff members have experience and familiarity with the lab.

The laboratory director is responsible for overseeing staffing in the laboratory, hiring appropriate people to fill positions, conducting regular performance reviews, scheduling lab staffers, and confirming that staff members are fully qualified and competent. Depending on the nature of the work the lab does, the laboratory director may also need to run background checks on staff members to conform with government standards which are designed to keep labs safe and secure.


Laboratory directors also oversee budgeting and research initiatives in a lab. While they may encourage people in the lab to seek grants and assistance and to develop research projects, they must also balance the needs of the lab itself, which can require judicious scheduling of equipment and personnel. Laboratory directors also set policies in the lab, make sure that staff members are informed of lab policies, and confirm that policies are being followed.

The clinical laboratory director also deals with issues such as patient confidentiality, ethics in clinical trials, and meeting the needs of people who require the services of the lab. Lab directors are also concerned with quality control in the lab, security of the lab facilities, and keeping the lab current with industry and government standards. Failure to follow government mandates may cause a lab to be downgraded, which will mean that it will not be able to handle as many materials.

Several professional organizations offer laboratory director certification to people in this field. For certification, people demonstrate that they have fulfilled the educational requirements, and pass a competency exam. Certification can make someone more employable, as it demonstrates a commitment to excellence, high performance standards, and keeping up in the field.


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