what is a lab assistant?

As a lab assistant, you provide valuable support to researchers and scientists during various lab tests and experiments. Your responsibilities include setting up the work area, ensuring that the necessary reagents and equipment are available, and recording the findings during the experiments. Afterward, you write a report detailing the results and any recommendations for further testing.

Your duties primarily involve administration, which includes keeping track of experiments that scientists should perform, ensuring that researchers have the required equipment and samples, and performing data entry and report writing to monitor experiment progress. You also play a critical role in maintaining a clean and safe laboratory environment, both before and after each experiment. This includes taking stock of supplies and ensuring that the laboratory has everything it needs.

Lab assistants can work in a range of settings, depending on their employer. For example, you may work in research institutions supporting scientists in a variety of fields and industries, such as mining technology, manufacturing processes, and biology. Some lab assistants work in chemical industries, where they assist with chemical testing, analyzing products such as cosmetics, paints, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Others work in educational institutions like secondary schools and universities, where they help students learn.

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average lab assistant salary

The average annual salary for lab assistants is approximately $55,000. Starting salaries begin around $50,000 per year, but wages can increase as skills and qualifications improve. In New Zealand, the highest earners in this field make over $60,000 annually.

what factors affect the salary of a lab assistant?

Your level of education and the complexity of your job tasks can impact your earnings. For instance, having formal education as a lab assistant can result in a higher salary. If you have vocational qualifications or a bachelor's degree, you may be able to negotiate a higher pay rate due to your advanced skills and knowledge. Additionally, your employer and industry can also affect your earnings. If you work for a research institution, your salary may depend on available funding, with those with unlimited funding typically offering higher pay. Different industries, such as hospitals versus pharmaceuticals, may also have varying compensation for research-related positions.

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types of lab assitants

Some of the types of lab assistants include:

  • medical lab assistant: as a medical lab assistant, you work alongside laboratory staff to test and evaluate human tissue conditions. You prepare tissue samples for experiments and find reagents for testing. You operate under the guidance of research lab technologists and physicians.
  • dental lab assistant: as a lab assistant, you collaborate with dentists to plan, design, and manufacture dentures for patients. You perform their duties under the supervision of dentists and dental lab technicians.
  • chemical lab assistant: as a lab assistant, you help chemical engineers and researchers with experimentation and product or process development. You set up experiments and document the results.


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smiling female looking down

working as a lab assistant

Working as a lab assistant suits you if you are passionate about science. Let's explore some of the daily tasks of lab assistants.


education and skills

Some of the academic qualifications of lab assistants include:

  • education: build knowledge in laboratory work through vocational qualifications. Pursue a course like Certificate III in laboratory skills to prepare you for entry-level roles. Alternatively, complete Certificate IV in laboratory techniques to improve your knowledge of using lab equipment and collecting samples. If you want to further your education, complete a diploma in laboratory technology and a bachelor of science.
  • work experience: gain experience through internships and vocational training. You can also look for an entry-level role to work under a lab technician and learn the skills.

lab assistant skills and competencies

Lab assistants require the following skills:

  • analytical skills: as a lab assistant, you analyse lab results. You require analytical skills to identify anomalies and trends in research data. Your analytical skills also assist with solving problems.
  • communication skills: as a lab assistant, you work closely with the lab team when conducting experiments and carrying out test procedures. You require verbal and written communication skills to complete your tasks.
  • dexterity: as a lab assistant, you work with precision tools and conduct various tests with your hands. You require manual dexterity to use the tools efficiently.

FAQs about working as a lab assistant

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a lab assistant.

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