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Technician, Biological

ActivitiesAssist biological and medical scientists in laboratories. Set up, operate, and maintain laboratory instruments and equipment, monitor experiments, make observations, and calculate and record results. May analyze organic substances, such as blood, food, and drugs.

OutlookAverage job growth

Median Income80,200 per year in 2010

Work Context & ConditionsScience technicians work under a wide variety of conditions. Most work indoors, usually in laboratories, and have regular hours. Some occasionally work irregular hours to monitor experiments that can't be completed during regular working hours.

Minimum Education RequirementsAssociate's Degree

SkillsLearning Strategies, Instructing, Active Listening, Reading Comprehension, Science

AbilitiesDeductive Reasoning, Problem Sensitivity, Information Ordering

InterviewsPeggy Hall
Joel Han
Keisha Hines-HarrisVideo Icon
Jason Sacks

Job Description
Job CategoryLife, Physical, & Social Science

Job DescriptionBiological technicians work with biologists studying living organisms. Many assist scientists who conduct medical research—helping to find a cure for cancer or AIDS, for example. Those who work in pharmaceutical companies help develop and manufacture medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations. Those working in the field of microbiology generally work as lab assistants, studying living organisms and infectious agents. Biological technicians also analyze organic substances, such as blood, food, and drugs, and some examine evidence in a forensic science laboratory. Biological technicians working in biotechnology labs use the knowledge and techniques gained from basic research by scientists, including gene splicing and recombinant DNA, and apply them in product development.

Science technicians use the principles and theories of science and mathematics to solve problems in research and development and to help invent and improve products and processes. However, their jobs are more practically oriented than those of scientists. Technicians set up, operate, and maintain laboratory instruments, monitor experiments, make observations, calculate and record results, and often develop conclusions. They must keep detailed logs of all of their work-related activities. Those who work in production monitor manufacturing processes and may be involved in ensuring quality by testing products for proper proportions of ingredients, for purity, or for strength and durability

As laboratory instrumentation and procedures have become more complex in recent years, the role of biological technicians in research and development has expanded. In addition to performing routine tasks, many technicians also develop and adapt laboratory procedures to achieve the best results, interpret data, and devise solutions to problems, under the direction of scientists. They must master the laboratory equipment so that they can adjust settings when necessary and recognize when equipment is malfunctioning.

The increasing use of robotics to perform many routine tasks has freed technicians to operate more sophisticated laboratory equipment. They make extensive use of computers, computer-interfaced equipment, robotics, and high-technology industrial applications, such as biological engineering.

Working ConditionsBiological technicians work under a wide variety of conditions. Most work indoors, usually in laboratories, and have regular hours. Some occasionally work irregular hours to monitor experiments that cannot be completed during regular working hours. Production technicians often work in 8-hour shifts around the clock. Some technicians may be exposed to hazards from equipment, chemicals, or toxic materials. They sometimes work with toxic chemicals, radioactive isotopes, and disease-causing organisms. They use their hands to handle, control and feel objects, tools, and controls. It is important that they be very exact and highly accurate in performing their job. The job may require walking, standing, stooping, kneeling, and crouching.

Salary RangeThe median annual wage of biological technicians was $39,020 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,930, and the top 10 percent earned more than $62,890.

Education RequiredBiological technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. Most colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs in biological science.
Biological science programs usually include courses in general biology, as well as in specific subfields such as ecology, microbiology, and molecular biology. In addition to taking courses in biology, students must study chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Computer science courses are helpful for modeling and simulating biological processes and for operating some laboratory equipment. 
It is important for students to gain laboratory experience before entering the workforce. Students should take biology courses that emphasize laboratory work. They often can also gain laboratory experience through summer internships with prospective employers, such as pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers.

Recommended High School CoursesBiology, Mathematics, Chemistry

Postsecondary Instructional ProgramsMathematics, Food Production, Chemistry, Biology

Certification and LicensingNone

Skills, Abilities, & Interests
Interest Area
RealisticInvolves working on practical, hands-on problems and solutions, often with real-world materials, tools, and machinery.

Work Values
Company Policies and PracticesTreated fairly by the company.
Moral ValuesNever pressured to do things that go against their sense of right and wrong.
ActivityBusy all the time.

Learning StrategiesUse multiple approaches when learning or teaching new things.
InstructingTeach others how to do something.
Active ListeningListen to what other people are saying and ask questions as appropriate.
Reading ComprehensionUnderstand written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
ScienceUse scientific methods to solve problems.

Deductive ReasoningAble to apply general rules to specific problems to come up with logical answers, including deciding whether an answer makes sense.
Problem SensitivityAble to tell when something is wrong or likely to go wrong. This doesn't involve solving the problem, just recognizing that there is a problem.
Information OrderingAble to correctly follow rules for arranging things or actions in a certain order, including numbers, words, pictures, procedures, and logical operations.

More Information
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Job OutlookEmployment of biological technicians is projected to increase 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, as fast as the average for all occupations. Greater demand for biotechnology research is expected to increase the need for these workers. 
Biotechnology research plays a key role in scientific advancements that improve our way of life. Biological technicians will be needed to help scientists develop new medicines and treatments for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
In agriculture, biotechnology research will be used to create genetically engineered crops that provide greater yields and require less pesticide and fertilizer. In addition, efforts to discover new and improved ways to clean and preserve the environment will continue to add to job growth. Finally, biological technicians will be needed to help develop alternative sources of energy, such as biofuels and biomass.

More InformationFederation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

ReferencesBureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Biological Technicians,
on the Internet at

O*NET OnLine, on the Internet at