From EMT to Biological Technician: EMT Career Guide

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

EMTs and paramedics serve as the front lines of healthcare—directly assisting patients in the field and solving severe and immediate issues with their skills and knowledge. While a Biological Technician is also responsible for saving lives, they do it much differently. EMTs and paramedics work by reacting to unique and spontaneous situations. The job of biological technicians (sometimes referred to as laboratory assistants) is to help researchers utilize samples to analyze and diagnose patients and symptoms. It’s easy to see how an EMT could feel drawn to such a job, as it draws on their first-hand experience treating patients and presents opportunities to create real change in the medical field. However, it’s a medical career that offers challenges and rewards in a slightly different fashion.

(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 fluids, tissue, and other substances. In addition, they often work directly with clinical test subjects—an area where an EMT’s experience working with patients comes in handy.

Typical 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 findings

The exact type of research conducted by the biological technician depends on the laboratory itself. For example, a laboratory tech could help on anything from aiding in the development of a new vaccine to testing new pain relief drugs for potential side effects. Biological technology is a field that’s constantly evolving and advancing, and those working in the area can look forward to a career of continual discoveries.

Biological Technician Job Description

What Is a Typical Day for a Biological Technician?

While the goal of biological research may be “discovery,” the process follows concrete steps every day. For research to maintain credibility, everything must be documented, logged, checked, and double-checked—responsibilities that lie in the hands of the biological technician.

It’s a meticulous job where attention to detail is a must. Most days begin by following a specific routine to prepare the laboratory—checking that all equipment and machinery are in good operating order, that all materials are present and accounted for, and that no person or thing is out of place in such a way that it could contaminate the experiments.

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

The biological technician may also work directly with clinical test subjects during human trials. This can include taking patient histories, conducting thorough examinations, and taking blood and tissue samples.

Biological Technician Hours

Unlike EMTs, biological technicians work a 40-hour week and typically have a specific schedule. This usually means working a standard 8-to-5 shift. However, some specialized laboratories (ones that study sleep patterns, for example) require work hours that best suit the specific research.

Biological Technician Uniform

Most biological technicians usually work in sterile environments, so lab coats, gloves, and masks are almost always required.

Biological Technician Requirements

How to Become a Biological Technician

No certification is required to work as a biological technician, but most employers look for biological technicians with a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field. This requirement varies, however, as some employers may be willing to hire bio techs with only an associate degree. Some laboratories may even accept applicants based on their work experience alone.

The most important thing a future biological technician can have is laboratory experience. Employers need to know that their technicians possess the kind of attention to detail that can only come through experience, including proper procedures during experiments, documentation, a solid understanding of laboratory equipment, and how to avoid contamination.

Computer science experience is a tremendous benefit in the eyes of many labs.

Becoming a 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 extended periods

Biological Technician Education

What Training Is Required to Become a Biological Technician?

While no certification or licensing is required for biological technicians, most laboratories look for employees with laboratory experience to show that they can thrive in such a unique environment—not everyone can! The most common background is a Bachelor of Science in biology or a related field, with preference given to technicians with computer science experience.

Some laboratories will hire biological technicians with only an associate degree. In contrast, others may not require a degree if the technician can demonstrate the necessary laboratory skills, knowledge, and experience.

Biological Technician Programs

During your biological technician courses, you’ll study:

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

In many programs, you’ll have the opportunity to work in a supervised laboratory setting to gain hands-on experience.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Biological Technician?

As previously mentioned, the most common requirement for becoming a biological technician is a Bachelor of Science degree or an associate degree. A bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field typically takes four years to complete. An associate degree can be completed in two years or less, depending on the course load.

Biological Technician Required Skills

Besides the educational and certification preferences mentioned above, successful biological technicians typically exhibit the following skills:

  • 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 and succinctly and accurately communicate the results of their experiments.
  • Critical Thinking – Bio techs are constantly breaking new ground and addressing new problems—meaning there won’t be a manual. Instead, they must be able to assess and solve unforeseen challenges or situations as they arise.
  • Technical Skills – Bio techs use various 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?

The experience gained by being an EMT or paramedic is a valuable asset for aspiring biological technicians in many ways. Some of the 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 directly with test subjects, patient care experience is valuable.
  • Communication – EMTs and paramedics know how to best communicate with medical professionals.
  • Organizational Skills – EMTs and paramedics begin and end their days with lists, records, and documentation—it’s a process 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 be okay collecting samples from patients.

Biological Technician Salary

How Much Does a Biological Technician Make?

In 2021, biological technicians earned an average of $51,000 per year (or $24 per hour), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, remember that experience, education, industry, and location significantly impact compensation.

Highest Paid Industries for Biological Technicians

There are many industries eager to hire competent biological technicians. Here are the industries where bio techs can make the highest income:

Industry Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Management of Companies & Enterprises $33.95 $70,610
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing $28.63 $59,550
Medical and Surgical Hospitals $26.98 $56,120
Scientific Research & Development Services $26.45 $55,010
Outpatient Care Centers $26.17 $54,430

Highest Paying States for Biological Technicians

Of course, where you work geographically as a biological technician can also affect your salary. Here are the states where biological technicians make the most money:

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Massachusetts $30.10 $62,610
Connecticut $27.96 $58,160
Delaware $27.58 $57,360
New Jersey $27.08 $56,330
Pennsylvania $26.84 $55,820

Highest Paying Cities for Biological Technicians

If you are looking to earn as high a salary* as possible as a biological technician, you may want to include these cities during your job search:

City Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Dallas, TX $33.20 $69,050
Boulder, CO $33.00 $68,640
Des Moines, IA $31.70 $65,940
East Stroudsburg, PA $31.65 $65,830
Hartford, CT $30.89 $64,250
San Jose, CA $30.79 $64,050
San Francisco, CA $30.63 $63,720
Washington DC $30.43 $63,290
Boston, MA $29.94 $62,270
New Haven, CT $29.32 $60,980

Beginning Your Career as a Biological Technician

Becoming a biological technician can be a good fit for many EMTs and paramedics. The combination of analysis, organization, observation, and medical experience can lead to a promising career in the research field. And who knows? You could even be responsible for helping develop the next medical tool or medicinal treatment used by future EMTs, paramedics, and even doctors.

If you’re not already an EMT but would like to gain real-world experience before becoming a biological technician, you should 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 a related field. Jobs for biological technicians and EMTs are in high demand, and employers are looking for intelligent, dedicated employees for their teams.