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Non-graduate routes into pharmacology

Lab technicians and lab assistants

The terms lab assistant and technician cover a wide range of roles that suit people who enjoying working in a laboratory setting. They often work alongside scientists carrying out basic research to provide technical support. Technician jobs are also available as part of an apprenticeship.

In a university or industry lab, they are fundamental to:

  • helping to ensure the lab runs smoothly
  • maintaining lab supplies and sterilising equipment
  • setting up routine experiments

Technicians can progress to become facilities managers or research technology specialists.

In the NHS, medical laboratory assistants:

  • work alongside biomedical scientists
  • maintain laboratory equipment
  • sort and label patient samples
  • enter patient data
  • make up general chemical solutions for the lab

There are no formal entry requirements for these roles. However, employers often ask for GCSEs in science subjects. Work experience in a lab setting can also help you get a job. Science graduate students can also apply for these positions. This may allow them to gain experience before committing to a PhD or further study.

Technician Commitment are a group which aims to ensure the status, profile and opportunity for technicians. Follow them on Twitter @TechsCommit.

Animal technician

Animal technicians care for the animals used in laboratory research, through:

  • animal husbandry such as cage cleaning
  • monitoring animal health and welfare
  • carrying out routine procedures

Senior animal technicians can assist in breeding plans. With experience, they can also carry out more complex procedures, including those regulated by the Home Office. It can be a very rewarding job, particularly for animal lovers.

Junior animal technician jobs are entry-level positions. You will often need maths and English GCSEs, and some positions also ask for an NVQ or diploma in animal welfare. You do not have to have hands-on experience with animals. These roles also have good opportunities for career progression.