Biological Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a biological technician career? See real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a biological technician is the right path for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Biological Technician Career

Biological technicians work in laboratories to research diseases, test medicines and study organisms. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a biological technician is right for you.

Pros of a Biological Technician Career
Average growth field (Employment projected to grow 10% from 2012-2022)*
No licensing requirements*
Opportunities to work in various industries*
Satisfaction of improving people's lives*

Cons of a Biological Technician Career
Possible exposure to hazardous materials*
May require hours of standing or stooping**
Requires strict attention to detail**
Advanced computer and math skills required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Institutes of Health

Essential Career Info

Biological technicians can work in any industry where biological research is being performed. The largest industry employers are scientific research companies, universities, governmental departments, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. Generally, biological technicians do not work overtime or evening hours, but sometimes you may need to check on an experiment that is completed outside of traditional working hours. Working with biological materials can be hazardous, especially if you work with certain diseases, but following standard precautions and procedures should cut down on exposure.

Salary and Job Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that biological technicians made a median annual wage of $41,000 (www.bls.gov). Those working the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry made an average annual wage of $51,280, while those in hospitals made an average of $42,910. The BLS projected a 10% increase in employment of biological technicians from 2012-2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This increase will be mostly due to an aging population's demand for improved pharmaceuticals as well as biotechnological solutions in agriculture.

Education and Training Requirements

Although some scientific technicians can begin work with an associate's degree, biological technicians generally need a bachelor's degree to begin work in the field. You could choose a major in biology or another life science in order to learn the fundamentals of the field and to gain lab experience. After completing a bachelor's degree program, you may still require some on-the-job training, particularly if the lab in which you're employed uses equipment you haven't seen before. You would work under the supervision of a biologist and perform more complex procedures as you learn the skills specific to the laboratory.

What Employers Are Looking for

Generally, most employers list a bachelor's degree in biology as required education. Check out these summaries of job postings open in March 2012 to get an idea of what employers are looking for:

  • A lab in Kansas was looking to hire a biological technician to work in the specimen processing department on a flexible schedule. Qualifications included a bachelor's degree, data entry skills and the ability to stand for extended periods of time.
  • A Pennsylvania laboratory was searching for a biological technician to work with cell cultures in the cell biology department. The posting mentioned a bachelor's degree or a combination of experience and education as qualifications.
  • An animal vaccine manufacturer in Minnesota was looking for a biological technician with sterile environment experience, preferably a bachelor's degree in biology and 2-3 years of experience in a biological laboratory.

How to Stand out in the Field

Make High School Count

If you know you want to work in a biological laboratory, you should take as many math and science classes as you can during your high school curriculum. If your school offers advanced placement (AP) courses, you could enroll in those and take the AP exams. If you score well on the exams, colleges may accept your test score in place of a required introductory course. This way, you could begin more advanced college coursework earlier, and gain more lab experience and specific biological knowledge.

Get an Internship

During your college years, if you want to gain laboratory experience outside of your courses' required hours, consider participating in an internship. Whether through your university or with a private company, you could learn the basics of working in a lab and get a head start on your professional lab training.

Other Careers to Consider

If you want to work in a lab but want to work in a more direct healthcare setting, consider a career as a clinical or medical lab technician. Working to prepare and test blood, tissue and other patient specimens, clinical lab techs aid in diagnosing illness and determining treatment. Med lab techs attend 2-year training programs. The BLS reported for May 2011 that medical and clinical laboratory technicians made a median annual wage of $37,000 and predicted job growth of 15% for these technicians from 2010-2020.

If you want to work in the field of biology but would prefer not to be in a lab all day, you could become a forest or conservation technician. These workers collect data on the natural world and attempt to help humans navigate it less harmfully. You can begin work as a forest technician with a degree in a life science. The BLS reported for May 2011 that forest and conservations technicians, most of whom work for government agencies, made a median annual wage of $35,000 and could expect a decline in job openings of one percent from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
      • Master of Science in Biotechnology
      • Master of Science in Bioinformatics
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    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Clinical Microbiology
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    Bachelor's
      • BSHS in Biomedical Informatics
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    3. Kaplan University

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    Master's
      • MS in Nursing
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
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    4. South College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Health Science - Pre-Physical Therapy
      • Bachelor of Science in Health Science - Pre-Physician Assistant
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    5. Fortis College

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    Certificate
      • Medical Laboratory Technology
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    6. Penn Foster High School

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    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
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    7. Grand Canyon University

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    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
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    8. CDI College

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    9. Trident University

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    Doctorate
      • Health Sciences (Ph.D.)
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      • Health Sciences (BSHS)
  • Kaneohe, HI

    Windward Community College

Featured Schools

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
  • Master of Science in Biotechnology
  • Master of Science in Bioinformatics

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Clinical Microbiology
  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • BSHS in Biomedical Informatics
  • BSHS in Medical Laboratory Sciences

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Bachelor: Health Science

Which subject are you interested in?

South College

  • Bachelor of Science in Health Science - Pre-Physical Therapy
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Science - Pre-Physician Assistant
  • Associate of Science in Health Science
  • Associate of Science in Health Science - Pre-Nursing

What is your highest level of education completed?

Fortis College

  • Medical Laboratory Technology

Year of High School Graduation or GED completion:

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Grand Canyon University

  • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

  • Diploma in Medical Laboratory Assistant
  • Diploma in Medical Laboratory Assistant/Technician

What year did you graduate high school?