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Chemical Lab Technician Duties and Responsibilities
Although the tasks required of chemical lab technicians vary by workplace, our analysis of job listings pinpoints some responsibilities common to most positions. Expect to do the following:
Assist with Experiments and Research As critical helpers, techs perform actions such as gathering the chemicals to be used in an experiment, preparing solutions, handling samples, analyzing compounds to figure out the amounts of certain substances present, performing quality control inspections, and recording observations.
Convey Results Chemical lab technicians assemble data and other pertinent information into groups, charts, graphs, reports, and the like for others to evaluate. They also write up the exact steps and actions taken so others understand what led up to these findings.
Attend to Equipment Whether an apparatus needs recalibrating or beakers require sanitizing, chemical lab techs keep all equipment operating smoothly and safely. Technicians also troubleshoot when something isn't working properly and conduct routine maintenance to prevent problems from happening. No scientist wants to discover after an experiment that the machine being used contained contaminants.
Remain Current As technology changes quickly, chemical lab technicians regularly need to learn about the operation and use of new equipment.
Promote Safety Working with chemicals requires attention and precaution. Chemical lab technicians wear protective eyewear and other safety gear. They also monitor conditions to ensure proper ventilation, store chemicals in appropriate containers, label and dispose of hazardous materials in compliance with regulations, and keep a general eye out for anything that might prove dangerous.
Train Others Employers often call upon experienced chemical lab technicians to get new hires up to speed and comfortable with equipment and procedures. They may even need to instruct a veteran scientist on how to use a new or unfamiliar apparatus for a particular research project.
Chemical Lab Technician Skills and QualificationsMeticulous types who follow procedures to a T make good chemical lab techs. Without accuracy, attention to detail, and keen observation skills, experiments could have skewed results or dire consequences. Other factors critical to success include:
- Industry knowledge - besides familiarity with the types of equipment used by the employer, chemical lab techs understand the scientific method and how to apply it to their work
- Teamwork - techs regularly collaborate with chemists, chemical engineers, and other professionals
- Organization - keeping track of procedures and data requires an orderly, focused approach
- Problem-solving - when data seems "off" or equipment isn't acting as it should, chemical lab technicians use their critical thinking abilities to figure out what may be causing the situation
- Physical requirements - operating certain equipment may require manual dexterity and sufficient hand-eye coordination
Chemical Lab Technician Education and TrainingThe majority of chemical lab technicians hold an associate's degree in applied science or chemical technology, though some choose to pursue a bachelor's. Besides classroom instruction in math, physics, biology, computer science, and chemistry, students spend a good deal of time in laboratories putting theories into practice and learning how to use equipment. Candidates who are well-versed in the latest technology often attract the attention of hiring managers. With a mixture of experience and further education, some techs go on to careers as lab supervisors or chemists.
Chemical Lab Technician Salary and OutlookThe Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that chemical technicians earn a median salary of about $46,000 per year ($22 per hour). The lowest 10 percent command roughly $27,000, while the highest paid earn more than $76,000 per year. Overtime may be part of the total compensation package in places where projects are on a deadline. Medical insurance is a common benefit for full-time workers. The BLS anticipates demand for chemical technicians to grow 4 percent during the next decade. In 2016, about 67,000 people worked in the profession, and this number is expected to rise to around 70,000 by 2026. Job prospects may be particularly promising in research and development as manufacturers look for solutions to environmental issues.
If a career as a chemical lab technician sounds interesting, further explore the profession through these sources:
American Chemical Society - this organization is the go-to place for everything related to chemistry. Check out the "careers" section of the website for interviews with actual chemical lab techs and plenty of advice on pathways, resumes, internships, and more
American Chemistry Council - this group represents leading American chemical manufacturers and is "committed to fostering progress in our economy, environment, and society." Its blog features a plethora of articles on trends, best practices, and ways chemistry contributes to better living
Chemistry: Ferguson's Careers in Focus - reviewers praise this comprehensive book for being well-organized, helpful, and loaded with pertinent information "
Chemical Laboratory Technology" - get a glimpse at what goes on in actual labs with this YouTube offering
Chemistry for Dummies - this entry in the popular series covers everything from concepts to calculations in easy-to-understand ways
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