Samples from a laboratory

From EMT to Biological Technician: EMT Career Guide

How to Become a Biological Technician: Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Samples from a laboratory

EMTs and paramedics serve on the front lines of healthcare—directly assisting and saving patients in the field—and the tools, techniques, and medicines they use are developed by another vital healthcare professional: the Biological Technician.

While EMTs and paramedics work by reacting to new situations, the job of biological technicians (sometimes referred to as laboratory assistants) is to help researchers anticipate future situations and develop new and more effective ways of helping people. An EMT could easily feel drawn to such a job, as it draws on their first-hand experience treating patients but also presents an opportunity to create real change in the medical field.

(See our full list of alternative jobs for EMTs and paramedics)                

Biological Technician Duties & Responsibilities

What Does a Biological Technician Do?

The primary job of a biological technician is to collect samples and analyze test results of body fluid, tissue, and other substances. They often work directly with clinical test subjects—another area where an EMT’s experience working with patients can come in handy.

Common responsibilities for biological technicians include:

  • Setting up, maintaining, and cleaning laboratory equipment
  • Conducting biological tests and experiments
  • Gathering and preparing biological samples, including body fluid and tissue
  • Documenting work and observations
  • Analyzing experimental data and results
  • Writing reports to document any findings

The exact type of research depends on the laboratory itself. A laboratory tech could help develop a new vaccine, for example, or test a new pain relief drug for side effects. Biological technology is a field that’s rapidly evolving and advancing, and those in the field can look forward to a career of new discoveries.

Biological Technician Job Description

What Is a Typical Day For A Biological Technician?

Healthcare professional in a lab

The ultimate goal of biological research may be to discover new things, but the process follows very specific steps every day. In order for research to maintain credibility, everything must be documented, logged, checked, and double checked.

Most days begin by following a specific routine to prepare the laboratory—checking that all equipment and machinery is in good operating order, all materials are present and accounted for, and that no person or thing is out of place in such a way that they could contaminate the experiments.

Once the laboratory is prepared, the biological technician may spend most of the day collecting samples from test subjects, running experiments (using computers, laboratory machinery, or other medical equipment), or analyzing results. Tracking biological changes in an experiment can take days to weeks or even months, so patience and an eye for detail are essential qualities for becoming a biological technician.

The bio technician may also work directly with clinical test subjects if the drug or medical procedure is approved for human trials. This includes taking patient history, thorough examinations, and taking blood and tissue samples.

Biological Technician Hours

Biological technicians work a regular 40-hour work week and due to the nature of their job, they typically work a very specific schedule. For many, this means the average 8-to-5 work schedule. However, some specialized laboratories (ones that study sleep patterns, for example) require work hours that best suit the research.

Biological Technician Uniform

Most biological technicians work in sterile environments, so lab coats, gloves, and masks will more than likely be required.

Biological Technician Requirements

How to Become a Biological Technician

Certification is not required to work as a biological technician, but most employers do prefer biological technicians with a bachelor’s degree in biology or related field. This requirement varies, however, as some employers may be willing to hire bio techs who have an associates degrees, and some laboratories may even accept applicants based on their work experience alone.

The most important thing for a future biological technician is laboratory experience. Employers need to know that their technicians understand proper procedures during experiments, proper documentation, a solid understanding of laboratory equipment, and how to avoid contamination.

Some laboratories also look for technicians with computer science experience as well.

Biological Technician Might Be A Good Fit For You If…

  • You are organized and methodical
  • You are a naturally curious person
  • You have strong computer and analytical skills
  • You are a problem-solver, able to find solutions to new and unusual challenges
  • You enjoy working indoors
  • You can focus on specific tasks for long periods of time

Biological Technician Education

What Training Is Required to Become a Biological Technician?

While certification or licensing isn’t a requirement for biological technicians, most laboratories do look for employees with laboratory experience. The most common requirement is a bachelor’s of science in biology or a related field, with preference given to technicians with computer science experience as well.

Some laboratories will hire biological technicians with only an associates degree, and others don’t require a degree at all if the technician can demonstrate the necessary laboratory skills, knowledge, and experience.

Biological Technician Programs

During your courses, you’ll study:

  • Ecology
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Math
  • Physics
  • Computer Science

In many program, you’ll also be given the opportunity to work in a supervised laboratory setting to gain hands on experience.

How Long Does It Take to Be a Biological Technician?

As previously mentioned, the most common requirement to become a biological technician is a bachelor’s of science or associates degree. A bachelor’s degree in biology or related field takes four years to complete. An associates degree can be completed in two years or less depending on course load.

Biological Technician  Required Skills

Besides the educational and certification requirements, biological technicians should exhibit the following skills to achieve success:

  • Analytical Skills – Bio techs must be able to interpret and analyze the results of their experiments.
  • Communication Skills – Biological techs must be able to give and receive instructions for lab processes, as well as succinctly and accurately communicating the results of their experiments.
  • Critical Thinking – Bio techs are constantly breaking new ground and addressing new problems—there won’t be a manual for everything. They must be able to assess and solve unforeseen challenges or situations as they arise.
  • Technical Skills – Bio techs use a wide range of computer and laboratory equipment to conduct experiments.
  • Observational Skills – Biological technicians monitor and record the minutest details of their experiments, so strong observational skills are a must.

From EMT to Biological Technician

How Will My EMT Experience Help Me Become A Biological Technician?

Being an EMT or paramedic is a valuable asset for aspiring biological technicians in many ways. Some of those benefits include:

  • Proof of Performance – EMTs and paramedics have proven experience in the medical field. Employers can have confidence in their ability to perform complicated medical tasks under pressure.
  • Patient Care – Because biological technicians often work with test subjects directly, patient care experience is a plus.
  • Communication – EMTs and paramedics have insight into how to best communicate with medical professionals.
  • Organizational Skills – EMTs and paramedics begin and end their day with lists, set tasks, records, and documentation—very similar to how bio techs begin must follow a strict set of guidelines and procedures when fulfilling their responsibilities.
  • Strong Stomach – If an EMT or paramedic can field dress a wound, they’ll know how to collect samples from patients.

Woman sorting lab samples

Biological Technician Salary

How Much Does a Biological Technician Make?

Biological technicians can expect to earn an average of $49,110 per year (or $23.61 per hour) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experience, education, industry, and location will also impact compensation.

Highest Paid Industries for Biological Technicians

 

Industry Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Specialty Hospitals $26.22 $54,550
Local Government $25.82 $53,710
Pharmaceutical Manufacturing $25.42 $52,880
General Hospitals $24.99 $51,980
Scientific Research & Development Services $24.65 $51,270
Colleges & Universities $23.00 $47,840
Medical & Diagnostic Laboratories $21.91 $45,570

Where you work as a biological technician can also affect your salary.

Highest Paying States for Biological Technicians

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Connecticut $33.30 $69,260
Massachusetts $30.06 $62,530
New Jersey $26.73 $55,610
New Hampshire $26.10 $54,290
Illinois $26.04 $54,160

Highest Paying Cities for Biological Technicians

City Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Bridgeport, CT $33.81 $70,320
New Haven, CT $33.16 $68,970
San Jose, CA $31.25 $65,010
Cape Coral, FL $30.55 $63,540
Boston, MA $30.15 $62,710
Washington, DC $29.33 $61,010
San Francisco, CA $28.87 $60,040
Dallas, TX $28.14 $58,530
Trenton, NJ $27.42 $57,030
Springfield, MA $27.37 $56,930

Beginning Your Career as a Biological Technician

The work of a biological technician can be a good fit for some EMTs and paramedics. The combination of analysis, organization, observation, and medical experience can become a promising career in the research field, and who knows? You might even help develop the next tool or medicinal treatment used by future EMTs and paramedics.

If you’re not already an EMT and would like to gain real-world experience before taking the leap to biological technician , you can start by training for EMT certification.

Emergency medical services are an excellent way to test the waters before fully committing to a career in healthcare or related field. Jobs for both biological technicians and EMTs are in high demand, and employers are constantly looking for hard-working, smart, and dedicated employees for their teams.

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