Bureau of Labor Statistics

Biological Technicians

biological technicians image
Biological technicians gather and prepare biological samples for laboratory analysis.
Quick Facts: Biological Technicians
2018 Median Pay $44,500 per year
$21.39 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2018 85,000
Job Outlook, 2018-28 7% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 5,700

Summary

What Biological Technicians Do

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Work Environment

Biological technicians typically work in laboratories. Most biological technicians work full time.

How to Become a Biological Technician

Biological technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. It is important for prospective biological technicians to gain laboratory experience while in school.

Pay

The median annual wage for biological technicians was $44,500 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Employment of biological technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in biotechnology and medical research is expected to increase demand for these workers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for biological technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of biological technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about biological technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Biological Technicians Do

Biological technicians
Biological technicians prepare samples for further testing.

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Duties

Biological technicians typically do the following:

  • Set up, maintain, and clean laboratory instruments and equipment, such as microscopes, scales, pipets, and test tubes
  • Gather and prepare biological samples, such as blood, food, and bacteria cultures, for laboratory analysis
  • Conduct biological tests and experiments
  • Document their work, including procedures, observations, and results
  • Analyze experimental data and interpret results
  • Write reports that summarize their findings

Biological technicians, sometimes called laboratory assistants, typically are responsible for doing scientific tests, experiments, and analyses under the supervision of biologists (such as microbiologists) or medical scientists who direct and evaluate their work. Biological technicians use traditional laboratory instruments, advanced robotics, and automated equipment to conduct experiments. They use specialized computer software to collect, analyze, and model experimental data. Some biological technicians, such as those who assist the work of zoologists and wildlife biologists, may collect samples in the field, so they may need the ability to hike rugged terrain or otherwise travel through wilderness areas.

Biological technicians work in many research areas. They may assist medical researchers by administering new medicines and treatments to laboratory animals. They may separate proteins from other cell material, and analyze data from an experiment.

Biological technicians working in a microbiological context typically study living microbes and perform techniques specific to microbiology, such as staining specimens to aid identification.

Biological technicians also may work in private industry and assist in the study of a wide range of topics concerning industrial production. They may test samples in environmental impact studies, or monitor production processes to help ensure that products are not contaminated.

Work Environment

Biological technicians
Most biological technicians work in laboratories.

Biological technicians held about 85,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of biological technicians were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 29%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 29
Federal government, excluding postal service 11
Hospitals; state, local, and private 10
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 6

Biological technicians typically work in laboratories and offices, where they conduct experiments and analyze the results under the supervision of biological scientists and medical scientists. Some biological technicians who do fieldwork may be exposed to weather events and wildlife, such as mosquitoes.

Biological technicians must follow strict procedures to avoid contaminating the experiment, themselves, or the environment. Some experiments may involve dangerous organisms or toxic substances.

Biological technicians work together on teams under the direction of biologists or other scientists.

Work Schedules

Most biological technicians work full time and keep regular hours.

How to Become a Biological Technician

Biological technicians
Most biological technicians gain laboratory experience while in school.

Biological technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. Although it is less common, some positions may be available to those with less than a bachelor’s degree. It is important for prospective biological technicians to gain laboratory experience while they are in school.

Education

Biological technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. Most colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in the biological sciences. Some positions may be available to associate’s degree holders or those without a degree but who have biological laboratory experience.

Biological science programs usually include courses in general biology, as well as in specific subfields such as ecology, microbiology, and physiology. In addition to taking courses in biology, students must study chemistry, math, and physics. Computer science courses are helpful for learning how to model and simulate biological processes and for learning how to operate some laboratory equipment.

Laboratory experience is important for prospective biological technicians, so students should take biology courses that emphasize laboratory work.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Biological technicians need to conduct scientific experiments and analyses with accuracy and precision.

Communication skills. Biological technicians must understand and follow the instructions of their managing scientists. They also need to communicate their processes and findings clearly in written reports.

Critical-thinking skills. Biological technicians draw conclusions from experimental results through sound reasoning and judgment.

Observational skills. Biological technicians must constantly monitor their experiments. They need to keep a complete, accurate record of their work, including the conditions under which the experiment was carried out, the procedures they followed, and the results they obtained.

Technical skills. Biological technicians need to set up and operate sophisticated equipment and instruments. They also may need to adjust equipment to ensure that experiments are conducted properly.

Other Experience

Prospective biological technicians should have laboratory experience. In addition to coursework, students may gain laboratory experience during summer internships with prospective employers, such as pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers, or in university laboratories.

Advancement

Biological technicians may advance to scientist positions, such as microbiologist or biochemist and biophysicist, after a few years of experience working as a technician or after earning a master’s degree or Ph.D. Gaining more experience and higher levels of education often allows biological technicians to move into positions such as natural sciences managers or postsecondary teachers.

Pay

Biological Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2018

Life, physical, and social science technicians

$46,740

Biological technicians

$44,500

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

The median annual wage for biological technicians was $44,500 in May 2018. 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 $29,330, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $71,440.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for biological technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing $49,620
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 47,290
Hospitals; state, local, and private 45,560
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 43,840
Federal government, excluding postal service 38,970

Most biological technicians work full time and keep regular hours.

Job Outlook

Biological Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Biological technicians

7%

Life, physical, and social science technicians

6%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of biological technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Greater demand for biological and medical research is expected to increase the need for these workers.

Biotechnology research plays a key role in scientific advancements that improve people’s quality of life. One new area of biotechnology, synthetic biology, will employ biological technicians in attempts to redesign biological systems or living organisms to produce useful things, such as chemicals, in more efficient ways than are currently used. New applications of biotechnology may be the subject of research topics ranging from new ways to produce biofuels to providing new treatments for diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Job Prospects

Applicants who have laboratory experience, either through coursework or through previous work experience, should have the best opportunities.

Employment projections data for biological technicians, 2018-28

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Biological technicians

SOC Code19-4021
Employment, 201885,000
Projected Employment, 202890,700
Percent Change, 2018-287
Numeric Change, 2018-285,700
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of biological technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2018 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural and food science technicians

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Agricultural and food science technicians assist agricultural and food scientists.

Associate's degree $40,860
Biochemists and biophysicists

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes.

Doctoral or professional degree $93,280
Chemical technicians

Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to assist chemists and chemical engineers.

Associate's degree $48,160
Environmental science and protection technicians

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination.

Associate's degree $46,170
Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans.

Master's degree $69,660
Forensic science technicians

Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence.

Bachelor's degree $58,230
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Bachelor's degree $52,330
Medical scientists

Medical Scientists

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health.

Doctoral or professional degree $84,810
Microbiologists

Microbiologists

Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites.

Bachelor's degree $71,650
Zoologists and wildlife biologists

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems.

Bachelor's degree $63,420

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Biological Technicians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm (visited November 26, 2019).

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