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Laboratory Operators work in scientific laboratories providing technical support to ensure that the laboratory can function effectively and that scientists can carry out tests, research and investigations successfully in the lab. Similar job titles include Laboratory Assistant, Technical Laboratory Assistant, Scientific Laboratory Technician, Scientific Laboratory Assistant, Laboratory Technician and Laboratory Support Technician.
Laboratory Operators can work in labs a wide variety of areas including education, forensics, medical research and development, clinical trials, scientific investigations and health services.
Working as a Laboratory Operator can be an interesting and varied job. A typical day’s work for a Laboratory Operator could involve tasks such as setting up experiments and investigations in the lab, collecting and analysing samples, preparing samples and specimens, ordering and controlling stock, disposing of chemicals and waste products safely, cleaning and maintaining laboratory equipment, performing laboratory tests, constructing, maintaining and operating laboratory equipment and using lab IT/sotware.
Work is often carried out in teams with scientists and other laboratory technicians. The specific tasks performed by a Laboratory Operator will vary dependent upon the employer. Laboratory Operators have to follow strict health and safety procedures at all times, particularly in laboratories in which toxic chemicals, human tissues, biological waste are processed or in which a sterile requirement is required in order to prevent contamination of samples. In many laboratories Laboratory Operators will be required to wear protective clothing and equipment.
Qualifications, Skills and Experience Required to Become a Laboartory Operator
- A levels, HND or a degree in a relevant science subject which could include biology, biomedical science, chemistry, physics, pharmacy, forensic science, pharmacology
- Experience of working in a laboratory
- Accuracy and attention to detail
- Good hand-eye coordination and the ability to use technical laboratory equipment with accuracy;
- The ability to maintain and calibrate technical laboratory equipment;
- The ability to learn specific, practical techniques and apply this knowledge to solve technical problems;
- Organisational and time management skills flexibility
- Communication and teamwork skills
- IT skills to record and analyse data
Starting salaries for Laboratory Operators will depend on qualifications held, any experience in the role and the employer, but typically range from £15,000 to £19,000 for new entrants increasing to £20,000 to £25,000 for more experienced Laboratory Operators. Senior Laboratory Operators in management or supervisory roles salaries can be as high as £30,000 to £40,000.
Career path and progression
Laboratory Operators can progress to Senior Laboratory Technician roles and then on Laboratory Team Leader, Laboratory Team Manager or Laboratory Supervisor positions. An alternative career path for Laboratory Operators who do not necessarily with to supervise staff can include moving into more scientific, technical and analytical roles.