Microbiology Lab Assistant Job Description
Microbiology lab assistants help laboratory technicians prepare samples and reagents and keep the lab environment clean. Laboratories of all kinds hire microbiology lab assistants to work part- and full-time hours. Microbiology lab assistants work in lab environments where they may be exposed to potential biohazards and microbiological dangers. They rarely travel outside of the lab to carry out their normal job duties and ultimately report to the lab manager or head technician.
Microbiology Lab Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
Daily duties performed by microbiology lab assistants vary based on the size of the lab, the specimens being analyzed, and the number of lab techs who require assistance. However, there are several core duties associated with this job, including:
Prepare Samples and Specimens for Testing
Microbiology lab assistants prepare samples and specimens for testing. To do so, they label samples, prepare reagents, and dilute, mount, and stain specimens.
Microbiology lab assistants maintain lab stock and report inventory shortages. They also help create regular inventory reports.
Maintain Sterile Environment
Microbiology lab assistants maintain a sterile lab environment. They keep laboratory areas (including cooler and storage areas) clean and organized, sterilize lab tools, and empty lab trash, adhering to all standards for handling biohazards.
Microbiology lab assistants enter information into laboratory systems to properly log and track specimens and tests.
Follow Safety Standards
Microbiology lab assistants adhere to safety standards at all times to avoid cross-contamination and to protect themselves and coworkers from biological hazards.
Microbiology Lab Assistant Skills and Qualifications
Microbiology lab assistants perform manual labor, prepare specimens for testing, and maintain the laboratory environment. Employers also look for candidates who have the following skills:
- Multitasking – microbiology lab assistants perform many duties at once, which requires strong multitasking skills
- Computer skills – microbiology lab assistants use software and digital systems to log information, which requires good computer skills
- Organization skills – because microbiology lab assistants must accurately record data, label specimens, maintain lab stock, and assist with inventory management, good organization skills are essential for this job
- Physical fitness – microbiology lab assistants stand for hours at a time, move stock, and perform manual labor tasks, all of which require strength and stamina
- Attention to detail – microbiology lab assistants prepare specimens for testing, which requires strong attention to detail
Tools of the Trade
Microbiology lab assistants work with the following tools and equipment:
- Laboratory tools (flasks, test tubes, tongs, racks, crucibles, funnels)
- Safety equipment (safety goggles, gloves, aprons, face masks)
- Testing equipment (microscopes, reagents, stains)
Microbiology Lab Assistant Education and Training
At minimum, employers require microbiology lab assistants to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers seek candidates who are students in microbiology, cell biology, or similar fields. However, some employers may require microbiology lab assistants to have a bachelor's degree in one of the biological sciences.
Training is typically provided to microbiology lab assistants regardless of their past education or skill level, because laboratories have exacting protocols and procedures that must be followed. This training period varies by lab and may last for several weeks. Microbiology lab assistants in training work closely with the lab manager or head lab tech to learn their regular job duties.
Microbiology Lab Assistant Salary and Outlook
According to data provided by PayScale, microbiology lab assistants earn $14.71 in median hourly income. Data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that biological technicians earn a median annual salary of $43,800, or $21.06 per hour. Biological technicians typically have a bachelor’s degree and assist with conducting various laboratory tests and experiments. BLS projections show that these jobs are likely to grow 10 percent through 2026, a faster-than-average rate of growth.
Employers provide full-time microbiology lab assistants with basic healthcare coverage that includes vision and dental insurance. Vacation days and paid holidays are also commonly provided. Part-time microbiology lab assistants do not usually receive benefits.
Browse through these helpful books and websites to search for jobs, learn various laboratory techniques, and explore career growth opportunities:
Microbiology: Laboratory Theory & Application – learn the basic techniques for performing lab procedures and get step-by-step instructions for completing other laboratory tasks with this in-depth manual written for students
American Society for Microbiology – find upcoming industry events, explore career opportunities, learn more about lab protocols and guidelines, and browse training webinars at this website for microbiologists
Laboratory Experiments in Microbiology – find out how to perform basic microbiology techniques with this in-depth guidebook geared toward microbiology professionals
American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science – look for career opportunities, find educational and networking events, and stay up to date on relevant industry issues with this website dedicated to clinical laboratory science
Lab Manual for Microbiology Fundamentals: A Clinical Approach – this manual, written with students in mind, provides a detailed guide to microbiology lab practices and procedures of all types
American Society for Clinical Pathology – find learning resources, search for jobs, and look for professional opportunities of all types at the ASCP website