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Studies & Degrees in Lab Technology

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In the most general sense, laboratory technology is the study of handling routine tasks in a medical or scientific laboratory. Most lab technology programs are geared toward one of 2 fields: medical/clinical lab technology (the most common) and biotech lab technology. In either case, students of laboratory technologies are prepared to do fairly similar tasks. They frequently work with biological tissues, study bacterial growth in cultures, and may perform gene sequencing. All of the routine, day-to-day tasks that need to be performed in a medical or scientific laboratory are the purview of a technician with a degree in lab technology.
Personal Qualities
  • Steady hands and the confidence to work with extremely delicate scientific technology
  • Rigorous, logical mind and strong problem-solving ability
  • Passion for medical or scientific research
  • Cleanliness and meticulous organization

Study Options
Lab technology programs almost universally lead to an Associate's Degree rather than a Bachelor's Degree. The advantage of this is that they take only 2 years to complete and are usually much less expensive than four-year degrees. Of course, the eventual careers of those with Associate's Degrees tend to be less lucrative than those with more advanced degrees, but the work is still satisfying and enjoyable.
Although the majority of programs in lab technology are fairly similar, the 2 categories (medical/clinical and biotechnology) differ somewhat. Programs in medical and clinical lab technology focus more on applied knowledge of human biology and techniques for performing a variety of medical tests. Biotech-based programs, on the other hand, often emphasize the more theoretical aspects of cutting-edge scientific research.
Career Options
The majority of lab technology programs are geared towards those who hope to go into the medical field. People who complete these programs typically work in hospital or clinic labs, performing clinical diagnostic tasks on tissue samples. Any time you go to the doctor for blood work, for example, it is a medical lab technician who actually takes the samples and tests them. Being a medical lab technician is a great way to be involved in helping others through medicine, without going all the way to medical school. Those who have a passion for medicine but lack the time or the resources to complete an advanced degree often find that laboratory technology is their ideal field.
In recent years, as biotechnology has become an increasingly important industry in the European and American economies, more and more schools have developed programs for technicians in this area. Biotechnology labs around the world are having a hard time finding qualified technicians to hire, so the job prospects for graduates from these programs are encouraging. This is one of the few lines of work in which the job market has not gotten worse in recent years.