Pros and Cons of Extraction Technician Careers
Extraction technicians are trained medical and scientific laboratory professionals who extract samples for testing and analysis. Read below to learn some of the pros and cons to extraction technician careers.
|PROS of Extraction Technician Careers|
|Variety of specialties to choose from (chemical, biological, medical, etc.)*|
|Higher-than-average salaries (between around $45,000 and $61,000 on average as of 2014 depending on specialty)*|
|Opportunities for promotion to scientist or managerial positions with experience*|
|Steady job prospects for technicians in medical and biological fields (9%-30% job growth from 2012-2022)*|
|CONS of Extraction Technician Careers|
|Requires specialized postsecondary education*|
|Unusual hours for medical and chemical technicians who work in 24-hour facilities*|
|Requires you to wear safety gear to avoid exposure to hazardous materials*|
|Licensure sometimes required for technicians in the medical field*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Career Options and Job Descriptions
As an extraction technician, you'll collect and prepare specimens from people, animals and plants for laboratory analysis; however, your specific job function will vary depending on the field in which you work. If you work as a medical technician, you'll collect blood, tissue and other human substances for medical laboratory testing that can help detect abnormalities that signify diseases. Biological technicians collect a wider range of substances, like blood, soil and bacteria, for the purposes of scientific testing and experimenting. As a chemical technician, on the other hand, you'll collect samples and prepare chemical solutions for laboratory analysis, experiments or chemical production.
No matter your specialty, you can expect to handle a variety of extraction equipment, like chemical or DNA analyzers, test tubes, microscopes and cell counters, and you may be responsible for the upkeep of all laboratory materials and equipment. There is some risk of exposure to hazardous materials involved with this occupation, so you'll usually wear protective gear, like masks, goggles and gloves.
Your salary potential in this career will be based on the field in which you specialize. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that medical technicians earned an average annual salary of about $61,000 as of 2014. As of the same date, biological technicians earned about $45,000 on average per year, while chemical technicians earned around $47,000 on average per year.
The BLS reports that the employment for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was projected to increase by 30% from 2012-2022. This increase will be spurred by the growing aging population, which tends to need more diagnostic services. Biological technicians were expected to see slightly lower employment growth at a rate of 10% in the same date range, an effect of the growing demand for biotechnology research that can lead to new medicines and medical treatments, more efficient agricultural techniques and alternative energy sources. Chemical technicians were expected to have the slowest job growth among these specialties at a rate of 9% from 2012-2022.
Education and Skills
Extraction technicians normally have to possess some post-secondary education. The amount of education depends on the field you're entering into. While medical and chemical technicians often have associate's degrees specific to their fields, you'll need to obtain a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field to work as a biological technician. In addition to education, extraction technicians need technical skills in order to work with complex equipment. The ability to analyze information and think critically in order to come up with solutions is also important. Other essential skills include:
- A strong eye for detail
- Stamina and manual dexterity
- The ability to work on a team
- Aptitude for verbal and written communication
Like other medical professionals, medical technicians are often required to be licensed or registered by their state of employment. Becoming licensed may involve completing an accredited medical technology program, earning certification and passing qualifying exams. Biological and chemical technicians are not required to be licensed.
What Do Employers Want?
Employers who are hiring extraction technicians often emphasize the need for someone who is physically capable of standing for hours at a time and who can safely handle glass equipment. Experience is also a major requirement, and employers may prefer applicants with at least two years of lab experience. Below is a sample of job postings available in May 2012 that can teach you more about what real employers wanted from extraction technicians.
- A laboratory testing services company in Texas wants an extraction technician with a bachelor's degree in a scientific field or a high school diploma coupled with two years of laboratory experience. Applicants need to be capable of communicating clearly, handling glassware and standing for up to eight hours at a time.
- A food and pharmaceutical testing company in Utah needs an extraction technician to prepare environmental samples for analysis. The applicant needs a high school diploma or 2-4 years of organic laboratory experience. Candidates also need to have computer proficiency, be able to stand for eight hours at a time and have good manual dexterity to handle glassware.
- In Tennessee, a healthcare company needs an extraction technician with a bachelor's degree and licensure as a medical laboratory technician or medical technologist as well as 2-5 years of laboratory experience.
- In California, a scientific and clinical research company is looking for an extraction technician that has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and lab experience. The job also require familiarity with polymerase chain reaction (PCR), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and DNA extraction techniques.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Extraction technicians that take the time to earn a professional certification can set themselves apart from others who don't have a designation. You'll want to gear your certification towards the industry you work in. For example, the American Medical Technologists (AMT) offers certification for medical laboratory technicians who have associate's degrees from accredited programs or equivalent training in addition to approved laboratory experience.
As May 2012 job postings reveal, laboratory experience is also crucial for entering an extraction technician career. Your postsecondary program will include extensive laboratory coursework, but you can augment your lab training by attending an internship with a medical or scientific research facility. You might also benefit from attending a degree program that allows you to participate in a cooperative-education program, which allows you to gain practical experience while earning college credit.
Alternative Career Choices
If you want a more advanced position within a laboratory, you might want to pursue a career as a chemist. Chemists study various elemental factors, like reactivity, structure and composition, in order to help improve existing materials, products and processes or assist in creating new ones. You can enter the career with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, though upper-level scientific research positions may call for a graduate degree. You're earning potential is much higher in this position - the BLS reports that chemists earned roughly $75,000 on average as of 2011; however, jobs in this field were projected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of four percent from 2010-2020.
If you know you want to work in a laboratory conducting research on substances, but you want a higher-paying position, consider becoming a chemical engineer. In this occupation, you'll assist in the use and production of products like food, drugs, fuel and chemicals. The job requires a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, but the earning potential is much higher than that of extraction technicians; the BLS reports that chemical engineers earned an average salary of more than $99,000 as of 2011. Keep in mind that jobs in this field are only expected to increase by six percent from 2010-2020.