Biological Technicians Overview
Some biological technicians work in nature, in some cases in remote locations. However, many technicians work indoors in laboratory settings. Usually, employers require biological technicians to have a bachelors degree in biology though sometimes an associates degree or certificate in will suffice.
Nature of the Work for Biological Technicians
Biological technicians use science and mathematics principles to help biologists in research and development of products and processes. Their roles differ from those of scientists because they are more practically oriented. Biological technicians work closely with laboratory equipment, observe experiments, calculate and analyze results. Thus, biological technicians must maintain detailed logs of all of their work.
The role of biological technicians in research and development has expanded as laboratory procedures and instruments have become increasingly complex. Because of this, they have become a more integral part of the team, working under the direction of biologists to develop and adapt laboratory procedures get the best results. In order to fix instruments and adjust settings, biological technicians must become experts on the laboratory equipment.
A biological technician assists a biologist in the study of living organisms. Scientists who perform medical research use biological technicians to assist them in experiments. Some biological technicians are employed in pharmaceutical companies and help to develop and assemble medicines. Typically, biological technicians who work in microbiology fill the role of a laboratory assistant, and aid in the study of living organisms and infectious agents. They also examine organic substances such as drugs, blood and food. In the field of biotechnology, biological technicians apply knowledge learned during the basic research and apply it to the development of products.
Most biological technicians work indoors in a laboratory setting. They typically work regular hours, but may have to work an irregular shift in order to observe experiments that could not be completed during the day.
As automation and information technology continue to expand, biological technicians have to operate increasingly complex laboratory equipment. They also work closely with electronic measuring equipment, computers and more traditional experimental tools. Biological technicians are sometimes exposed to disease-causing organisms, however these occurrences are rare as long as technicians follow proper safety procedures.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Biological Technicians
To qualify for a job as a biological technician, most applicants have a bachelors degree in biology, while others are able to secure a position with a certificate or associates degree in biotechnology.
There are many programs at 1-year technical schools and 2-year community colleges that provide biotechnology lab technician courses as well as courses in biotechnology in addition to general education in mathematics and science. Many individuals choose to earn an associates degree in biotechnology to provide an easy transition into a bachelors in biology. Usually, programs at a technical college provide less courses on theory and general education than community colleges. Some students complete a cooperative-education or internship program through their college, which allows them the ability to work with a local company while attending classes in alternating semesters. Students who participate in these programs have a better chance at getting a job.
Biological technicians must have hands-on training from either a job or school because job applicants will need to have extensive hands-on experience with laboratory equipment. These biological technician candidates will only require a short on-the-job training, however those with a high school diploma usually have to complete a longer training program, working as a trainee under an experienced technician.
High school students who plan on pursuing a career as a biological technician should take as many math and science courses as possible. While earning their associates or bachelors degree, they should focus on developing knowledge of laboratory equipment, specifically bench skills. They must also have a strong background in chemistry, math, physics and biology.
Biological technicians also need to have good communication and interpersonal skills as they often have to report findings to biologists. They must also be technically proficient in computers, specifically computer modeling, as they are used heavily in research and development laboratories.
Typically, biological technicians begin their training performing routine positions. They work under the direction of a biologist until they have gained enough experience to work under general supervision. Biological technicians with a bachelors degree or masters degree are able to move onto biologist positions after a few years of experience.
Top 10 Most Popular Biology/Biological Sciences Schools
1. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, California)
2. The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas)
3. University of Maryland, College Park (College Park, Maryland)
4. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
5. University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
6. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
7. University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, California)
8. The University of Texas at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas)
9. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (New Brunswick, New Jersey)
10. University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
Most Popular Online Biology/Biological Sciences Schools
Employment and Job Outlook for Biological Technicians
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
Job Opportunities & Competition
Good or favorable job opportunities. Job openings compared with job seekers may be in rough balance.
Of the 270,800 jobs that science technicians hold, biological and chemical technicians account for 54 percent of them. Close to 30 percent of biological technicians work in scientific, professional and technical service firms, while most of the rest work in government, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing or educational services.
Employment growth for biological technicians is projected to be 18 percent, which is faster than average than all other occupations. As scientific and medical research continue to evolve in biotechnology, there will grow a demand for biological technicians.
Also adding to the employment growth of biological technicians is the growing number of agricultural and medicinal products that are developed based on the results of biotechnology research. As a large number of the population continues to age, competition between pharmaceutical companies are expected to add to the need for new and improved drugs. The largest job growth will be in scientific, technical services, professional and educational services.
Job openings will be created from growth as well as the need to replace biological technicians who leave the labor force or retire. Job prospects will be the best for those with a certificate, associates or bachelors degree in biotechnology. As laboratory techniques and instrumentation become more complex, applicants will be required to have highly developed technical skills.
Earnings and Salary for Biological Technicians
The median hourly wage for biological technicians is $19.78 and the average annual salary is $41,140.
Annual Salary for Biological Technicians
On average, Biological Technicians earn $38,700 per year.
Hourly Wage for Biological Technicians
On average, Biological Technicians earn $18.61 per hour.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook