Lab Research Assistant Job Description

Lab research assistants perform lab experiments and conduct research, designing their own projects and carrying out projects designed by senior lab staff members. Lab research assistants work in laboratory environments of all types. At times they perform their duties independently, but they also work as part of a larger laboratory team, primarily assisting and answering to lab supervisors and project managers. Medical facilities, private labs, pharmaceutical companies, and research facilities hire lab research assistants to work full-time hours during all shifts, including weekends and evenings. Lab research assistants conduct their work within the lab itself and may work with small animals, biohazards, and other dangerous materials.


Lab Research Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

Tasks for lab research assistants vary depending on the experiments being conducted, the industry the lab is associated with, and the equipment and materials used within the lab itself. These core duties, however, are essentially the same despite these differing factors:

Conduct Experiments

Lab research assistants design and perform experiments in order to gain information and test scientific processes.

Implement Research Projects

Lab research assistants implement research projects designed by other lab workers and supervisors, carrying out research according to pre-outlined tasks.

Test Hypotheses

Lab research assistants formulate and test various scientific hypotheses.

Evaluate Data

Lab research assistants evaluate data from the experiments they conduct.

Perform General Lab Duties

Lab research assistants perform assigned lab duties, such as studying slides and performing chemical tests.

Write and Deliver Reports

Lab research assistants write detailed reports of research and experiments conducted, then deliver these reports in written and verbal forms.

Maintain Lab Standards

Lab research assistants maintain cleanliness and safety standards in the lab and lab storage areas at all times.


Lab Research Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Lab research assistants are professionals with a high degree of analytical ability who carry out precise experiments while following strict protocols. Laboratories hire lab research assistants who display the following skills:

  • Multitasking – because lab research assistants work on several different projects and experiments at once, strong multitasking abilities are essential to this job
  • Attention to detail – lab research assistants need good attention to detail to follow exact standards and testing procedures
  • Critical thinking – lab research assistants analyze their research findings and record data, which requires strong critical thinking abilities
  • Computer skills – some computer skills are needed for lab research assistants to record data, log test samples, and create detailed lab reports
  • Communication skills – because laboratories are collaborative environments where several researchers work on the same project, good verbal and written communication skills are a must-have for lab research assistants
  • Organization skills – multiple testing materials are often used for single lab projects, so employers prefer lab research assistants who are highly organized and can keep track of all their materials and samples


Tools of the Trade

Lab research assistants work regularly with the following tools:

  • Tissue cultures (slides, samples, specimens)
  • Lab equipment (microscopes, beakers, Bunsen burners, spectrophotometers, centrifuge machines)
  • Glassware (test tubes, vials, droppers)


Lab Research Assistant Education and Training

Most employers only hire lab research assistants who have a bachelor’s degree in biology, biotechnology, immunology, biochemistry, or a related scientific field. Some employers prefer professionals who have a master’s degree in one of these disciplines. Their specific field of study determines the type of laboratory where lab research assistants will be most effective.

Labs provide training for lab research assistants to help them become familiar with the types of experiments being conducted, the available testing materials, and the lab’s current equipment. While training, lab research assistants work under close supervision from senior lab staff members and project managers. The length of this training period varies by lab and may last for several weeks.


Lab Research Assistant Salary and Outlook

According to PayScale data, lab research assistants earn $39,354 in annual median income. Research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earn a median income of $51,770 annually. Medical and clinical laboratory technologists perform lab tests, and many of their duties are similar to the tasks carried out by lab research assistants. Estimates project available jobs in this field will increase 13 percent by 2026, which is faster-than-average job growth.

Employers typically give full benefits to lab research assistants, including medical, vision, and dental insurance coverage. Paid vacation leave, sick days, and holidays are also offered.


Helpful Resources

Stay up to date on scientific news, find laboratory job opportunities, network with other professionals, and learn helpful career skills and strategies for lab research assistants with these resources:

Association of Clinical Research Professionals – ACRP has professional development resources for lab research assistants and other laboratory professionals. Its site includes networking tools, news and events updates, certification program information, job opportunities, and training programs

Handbook of Laboratory Health and Safety Measures – use this comprehensive guidebook of lab safety procedures to perform laboratory research safely and learn the protocols needed to maintain lab safety at all times

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science – search for laboratory career opportunities, keep up with lab news updates, find webinars and other training programs, and discover scientific communities and networking possibilities at this website for all lab professionals

Design Research Through Practice: From the Lab, Field, and Showroom – learn how theory, research, and lab testing interconnect in this research manual that provides tips for conducting lab tests in several different scientific fields

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science – this website is full of education resources and certification program information for laboratory professionals who work with animals in research and clinical environments

Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals – read this guide to learn all the basic principles of caring for and using laboratory animals. This book covers tips on animal husbandry and veterinary care for lab animals of all types


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