Laboratory Technician

How to Become a Laboratory Technician
Laboratory Technician Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Laboratory Technician
Laboratory Technician Salaries
Influential Professionals in the Laboratory Technician Field
Leading Laboratory Technician Organizations
Top Cities for Laboratory Technician Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Laboratory Technician

A Laboratory Technician is responsible for performing a series of tasks delegated by a medical professional. There are a wide variety of jobs in this field that include positions in the dental, medical, and ophthalmic industries.

Becoming a Laboratory Technician may or may not require a college degree. High school graduates may opt to learn their trade on the job and supplement the work with various forms of education, from seminars to a more formal course of study. Some employers do require a college degree or some level of formal training, depending on the duties associated with the position.

Regardless of the choice of education, prospective ,b>Laboratory Technicians should have strong math and communication skills. If one chooses to work in the dental industry, metal working is also a required skill.

Formal training and certification programs are available and vary widely depending on the discipline.

Laboratory Technicians in the dental industry may choose to become certified by The National Board for Certification, an independent board overseen by the National Association of Dental Laboratories. Certificates may be issued for five different specialty areas including: partial dentures, complete dentures, crowns and bridges, ceramics, and orthodontic appliances.

Certification for Dental Laboratory Technicians is voluntary in all but three states.

Certification is also voluntary for orthotic and prosthetic Laboratory Technicians. Certification is granted through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC). Applicants are eligible for certification after completing a program at an accredited institution or after gaining 2 years of professional work experience as a subordinate to an ABC-certified practitioner. Certifications include one of the following credentials: Registered Prosthetic Technician, Registered Orthotic Technician, or Registered Prosthetic-Orthotic Technician.

What does a Laboratory Technician do?

On a broad scale, a Laboratory Technician performs a variety of tasks delegated by a superior medical professional. There are many different areas of work, including dental, medical, and ophthalmic industries.

In private or small laboratories, Laboratory Technicians often oversee every phase of an operation. Larger facilities may utilize automated procedures, in which case the Laboratory Technicians must operate computerized machinery. Laboratory Technicians are also responsible for inspecting the finished product for accuracy and quality.

A large portion of Laboratory Technicians involved in the medical profession specializes in Orthotics and Prosthetics. Professionals in this field are also referred to as Medical Appliance Technicians (MAT). MATs are responsible for constructing, fitting, providing maintenance and repairing arch supports, braces, artificial limbs, hearing aids, and other medical and surgical appliances. MATs, like other Laboratory Technicians must read, understand and follow detailed instructions issued by medical professionals.

Dental laboratory technicians must read, understand and fill prescriptions issued by dentists for dentures, bridges, crowns, and other dental prosthetics. This may include preparing the patient for examination; taking, developing and reviewing x-rays; and taking a mold of the patient's mouth, either manually or digitally. Dental Laboratory Technicians are also responsible for accuracy and quality control of the finished product.

Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians may also be referred to as Optical Mechanics, Manufacturing Opticians, or Optical Goods Workers. The latter is most often in charge of making prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses or contact lenses. Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians must have the skills to cut, grind, edge, and finish prescription lenses according to specific instructions issued by dispensing optometrists, opticians, or ophthalmologists.

Like all Laboratory Technicians, Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians must be able to read, understand and fill prescriptions. Additionally Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians must be able to choose the correct materials and use computerized equipment to create the prescribed strength and curvature of the lenses. Some Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians are also responsible for contact lens fittings and pre-surgical procedures.

One should also be aware that there is a distinction between optometrists and ophthalmologists. An optometrist examines and prescribes eye care; an ophthalmologist is also an eye surgeon.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Laboratory Technician?

To become a Laboratory Technician, one must have advanced communication skills, both oral and written. Other skills include strong mathematical skills, advanced manual dexterity, good vision, knowledge of color and variation (dental), and advanced attention to detail. One must also possess the ability to interact with people on all levels and have some level of job related education and training. Computer training is also a requirement but because medical fields are often specific, each industry may have a specialized computer software package that is not available to the general public. If one cannot get access to such programs, generalized computer skills will suffice.

How much do Laboratory Technicians make?

Median hourly earnings of wage-and-salary medical appliance technicians were $14.99 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.34 and $19.65 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.93, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.00 an hour.

Median hourly earnings of wage-and-salary dental laboratory technicians were $15.67 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.61 and $20.57 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.16, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $26.13 an hour. In the two industries that employed the most dental laboratory technicians, medical equipment and supplies manufacturing and offices of dentists, median hourly earnings were $15.09 and $17.74, respectively.

Medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory technicians held about 95,000 jobs in 2006. About 55 percent of salaried jobs were in medical equipment and supply manufacturing laboratories, which usually are small, privately owned businesses with fewer than 5 employees. However, some laboratories are large; a few employ more than 1,000 workers. The following tabulation shows employment by detailed occupation:

Dental laboratory technicians $53,000
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians $29,000
Medical appliance technicians $12,000

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Dr. James Kaufman is President/CEO of The Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI)
Mr. Gregory W. Bowen is President of the Board of Directors for the Association of Laboratory Managers

What are some leading organizations in this field?

Association of Laboratory Technicians
American Society of Clinical Pathologists

What are the top cities for Laboratory Technician jobs?

Below is a list of the top cities for Lab Tech careers. These cities have shown continued growth and job placement for Laboratory Technicians.

Phoenix, AZ
Houston, Texas
Baltimore, Maryland
Chicago, Illinois
Dallas, Texas

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