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How to Become a Laboratory Analyst

Do you have exceptional analytical skills? Are you organized, a good communicator, and like performing chemical tests? A career as a laboratory analyst might be right for you. 

Laboratory analysts test and analyze specimens, samples, and materials using specialized equipment. They typically work in medical, pharmaceutical, and chemical facilities, but can be found in all types of laboratory environments. The work of a laboratory analyst varies depending on the industry or scientific field. They might work with biological samples, such as DNA and blood, or environmental samples, such as water and industrial waste.

Laboratory analysts typically perform the same tasks repeatedly, working with the same equipment and performing the same tests. Other duties include cleaning, data entry, and monitoring the progress of experiments. They analyze test results under the close supervision of doctors and scientists running laboratories or experiments.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for an experienced laboratory analyst to join our team. The lab analyst will monitor opportunities for business and cultural growth that foster operational excellence. Responsibilities will include financial statement analysis and budgeting support, strategic project deep dives, construction of reporting tools, best practice identification, and ensuring that business leaders have the insights required to make high-quality decisions. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience maintaining lab equipment, testing and analyzing samples, and following scientific best practices. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Set up lab test equipment to complete specific procedures
  • Perform chemical tests on materials and samples as requested or assigned
  • Log and analyze data
  • Manage inventory and supplies
  • Calibrate and clean equipment and replace worn or broken parts to ensure equipment functions properly
  • Adhere to safety standards and regulations, including wearing proper protective equipment
  • Maintain a clean, organized lab

Education and experience

  • Associate’s degree in chemical technology, applied science, medical technology, or related field
  • Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, or relevant field preferred
  • 1-5 years experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Solid analytical skills
  • Good attention to detail
  • Strong computer skills
  • Familiarity with software programs like Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good time management skills
  • Ability to operate electrical and non-electrical laboratory equipment
  • Comfortable handling potentially dangerous substances, such as flammable liquids and biohazards

Preferred qualifications

  • Proven experience as a lab technician or relevant position 
  • Experience in a specific field or industry
  • Certified in a relevant field

Typical work environment

Laboratory analysts primarily work in laboratory settings and report to a lab supervisor or shift manager. They typically work as part of a team of lab technicians, assistants, and other analysts. They may work in a wide variety of industries.

Typical hours

Laboratory analysts typically work 40-hour weeks. They generally are required to work all shifts, including nights and weekends. They might also have to work overtime to meet demands. 

Available certifications

Laboratory analysts work in a variety of industries, and many institutions offer certifications that can help laboratory analysts expand their knowledge. Here are common certifications:  

  • Medical Lab Technician Certification (MLT). The MLT prepares you to work in a medical lab environment, assisting doctors and other specialists by performing a wide variety of tests on blood, tissue, and other bodily fluids. To be eligible for the exam, you must have at least an associate’s degree or have completed an accredited medical laboratory technician program. The MLT exam covers a wide range of subjects, including laboratory operations, immunology, microbiology, chemistry, hematology, urinalysis, and other body fluids. 
  • Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS). The American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification offers the MLS certification, which shows your ability to conduct a full range of routine and complex laboratory tests in the areas of blood banking, chemistry, hematology, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, and urinalysis. Certification demonstrates your expertise in providing the results necessary for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. To be eligible for certification, there are several routes available, including having a bachelor’s degree or having achieved prerequisite certifications.
  • Molecular Diagnostics Technologist (MDT). American Medical Technologists certifies individuals as MDTs, which proves their ability to perform routine clinical diagnostic testing and test development in a molecular pathology laboratory. The exam covers general laboratory procedures, general molecular diagnostics, theory, molecular laboratory procedures, and diagnostic methods. There are several available paths to become eligible for the exam, including various combinations of other certifications, education, and experience.

Career path

The road to becoming a laboratory analyst begins with some level of secondary education. You must have at least an associate degree in medical technology, chemistry, applied science, or a related field. Many employers prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or a similar field of science. Having proven lab experience is key for those aspiring to become laboratory analysts. You can gain that experience through internships in a wide variety of industries. Obtaining certification in your industry is also beneficial in expanding your knowledge and enhancing your skills. 

Laboratory analysts in new or entry-level positions typically undergo training programs in the lab to learn the environment as well as all the protocols and testing procedures specific to the lab. Training length varies depending on the job and the employer but is generally several weeks. Laboratory analysts with years of experience and advanced education, such as a master’s degree, can move into higher-level roles such as lab supervisors, lab managers, or lab directors.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-2010

2020 Employment335,500
Projected Employment in 2030372,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift36,500 increase

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, laboratories and their suppliers are in greater demand than ever before. Finding more efficient ways of working have become paramount. Two key factors that will affect efficiency in the lab are digitization and sustainability. 

Digitization is essential as labs are generating an increasing amount of data. Because of this, labs are in need of powerful software solutions that will enable laboratory analysts to efficiently and effectively handle large amounts of data when performing and evaluating processes. Laboratory Information and Management Systems (LIMS) are increasingly found in many modern laboratories. They support work processes, data tracking, and enable data to be exchanged with other systems, providing a comprehensive data management solution. Although each LIMS is specific to its laboratory and the field in which it operates, the basic functions include order logging, sample registration, supporting the distribution and processing of samples, and generating and evaluating reports.

The advancement of digitalization will help increase sustainability for laboratories. Using advanced, cutting-edge information and communication technology, complex processes that link people, devices, systems, sensors, and products can be efficiently organized, which will optimize workflows and help maintain sustainably in the laboratory environment.