A laboratory assistant generally holds is an entry-level support position requiring a high school diploma (or equivalent) and some college-level lab experience.
Laboratory assistants aid the lab director in a variety of tasks, and their specific duties generally depend on the nature of the lab. This position may involve helping to carry out experiments, analyzing results, preparing slides for review, storing and pulling specimens for use, cleaning and sterilizing equipment, completing record-keeping paperwork, cleaning up spills, keeping lab supplies stocked, and other duties as assigned. This is often a position held by students in a university setting as part of a work-study program. Training is on-the-job and ongoing, and outside research to keep knowledge up to date may be required. Laboratory assistants generally work alongside lab technicians and technologists, under the supervision of the lab's director. Depending on the size of the lab, they may work with other laboratory assistants as well.
There are also medical laboratory assistant positions, which can require a more specialized background. These positions might require an associate's degree in laboratory science, a certificate in phlebotomy, or certification in another relevant field. Experience can usually be substituted for education, though certification may still be necessary. Positions in a medical lab might involve working directly with patients, through tasks such as drawing blood, performing skin tests, updating records, and doing reception work such as making appointments and answering phones.
All laboratory assistant positions require good oral and written communication skills, the ability to follow directions, basic computer skills, and a meticulous, detail-oriented approach. Work as a laboratory assistant can be physically demanding and require the ability to be on your feet for an entire shift. Labs generally operate during regular business hours, but some positions may require overtime.
Laboratory Assistant Tasks
- Create and transmit individual, summary, and inventory reports.
- Maintain inventory and equipment for the laboratory, including maintenance.
- Obtain, process, and analyze laboratory specimens, and log all intake and results.
- Order, distribute, and perform upkeep on stock and inventory.