Lab Assistant Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Lab Assistant, or Laboratory Assistant, supports Scientists, Doctors and other lab professionals. Their primary duties include setting up lab equipment, analysing and cataloguing samples and performing some clerical work.


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Lab Assistant duties and responsibilities

Lab Assistants perform a range of technical and clerical tasks during their workdays. While their day-to-day duties vary according to their area of speciality, they typically include:

  • Checking equipment and stock levels and ordering supplies as required
  • Sterilising, calibrating and setting up lab equipment
  • Labelling, sorting and storing lab samples
  • Monitoring and reporting on experiments when required
  • Disposing of waste and storing lab equipment after use
  • Answering telephone and email enquiries on the Lab Supervisor’s behalf as required
  • Performing laboratory testing 
  • Clerical tasks including printing and filing reports and data entry


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What does a Lab Assistant do?

Lab Assistants perform simple lab duties as instructed by Lab Technologists. Their work involves setting up equipment for experiments. Once experiments are complete, they catalogue samples, dispose of waste and put equipment away. They may also perform some basic analysis of samples, usually under the supervision of senior lab staff. Some Lab Assistants also answer inquires and perform other clerical duties on behalf of senior lab staff. Their work helps senior lab staff work efficiently by reducing the time they spend on simple tasks.

Lab Assistants are classified according to their area of  speciality. For example, there are Medical Lab Assistants and Dental Lab Assistants. There are also more specialised classifications within these groups. Immunology Lab Assistants, Cytology Lab Assistants and Biochemistry Lab Assistants are all types of Medical Lab Assistants.


Lab Assistant skills and qualifications

Lab Assistants use technical and clerical skills to accurately and efficiently perform their tasks. A successful Lab Assistant candidate will have various prerequisite skills and qualifications that typically include:

  • Industry-specific knowledge, e.g. Lab Assistants working in pharmaceutical research should know about the pharmaceutical industry
  • Thorough knowledge of lab health and safety practices, including waste disposal
  • Clerical skills including filing, data entry and phone manner
  • Verbal and written communication skills, including comprehension for answering inquires, understanding tasks and writing reports
  • Basic computer literacy, including familiarity with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, or other word processing and spreadsheet  programs
  • Organisation to multi-task and prioritise what tasks are the most important at all times


Lab Assistant experience requirements

Individuals can become Lab Assistants after leaving school without any professional experience. Many businesses prefer hiring candidates who have completed a relevant apprenticeship. Healthcare Science Assistant apprenticeships teach aspiring Lab Assistants valuable skills for lab work.


Lab Assistant education and training requirements

While there are no formal education requirements, most businesses prefer candidates with A*-C GSCEs. Ideal candidates have an A level in science, or a Level 3 equivalent. However, many businesses will help the right applicants achieve this educational level.

Lab Assistants usually receive on-the-job training in lab procedures, including occupational health and safety practices. Most businesses also support their Lab Assistants informal study. For example, many Lab Assistants work towards a Certificate in Healthcare Science. Certified Lab Assistants may then transition to Lab Analyst or Lab Technician roles.


Lab Assistant salary expectations

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a Lab Assistant in the UK is £19,217 per year. Salary depends on a Lab Assistant’s experience, location, employer and area of speciality.


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Lab Assistant job description FAQs


What is the difference between a Lab Assistant and a Lab Technician?

Lab Assistants have an entry-level lab role, while Lab Technicians have a mid-level role. Lab Assistants have no formal education and training but may hold relevant certificates, such as a Certificate in Healthcare Science. Their roles often overlap, but Lab Technicians have a higher level of responsibility. They are more likely to prepare samples for review and perform routine blood and drug tests.


What qualities make a good Lab Assistant?

A good Lab Assistant is a logical person with good attention to detail as they need to follow instructions and procedures meticulously. Attention to detail also helps Lab Assistants observe changes when needed during experiments. Lab Assistants must be flexible in order to adapt to changes in requirements. They should also be comfortable working alone or as part of a team. The best Lab Assistants are usually interested in their field. This natural passion combined with study can help them progress in their career.


Who does a Lab Assistant report to?

Lab Assistants usually report to Lab Technologists. Lab Technologists receive instructions from senior lab workers, such as Senior Scientists. After receiving instructions, Lab Technologists delegate the simplest tasks to their Lab Assistants. In smaller labs, Lab Assistants may report directly to senior lab workers.

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