technicians need an associate degree or a certificate in applied science
or science-related technology. Science technicians with a
high school diploma and no college degree typically begin work as
trainees under the direct supervision of a more experienced technician,
and eventually earn a 2-year degree in science technology.
There are several ways
to qualify for a job as a science technician. Many employers prefer
applicants who have at least 2 years of specialized training or an
associate degree in applied science or science-related technology.
Because employers' preferences vary, however, some science technicians
have a bachelor's degree in chemistry, biology, or forensic science or
have completed several science and math courses at a 4-year college.
Whatever their degree,
science technicians usually need hands-on training either in school or
on the job. Most can get good career preparation through 2-year formal
training programs that combine the teaching of scientific principles and
theory with practical hands-on application in a laboratory setting with
up-to-date equipment. Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in science
who have considerable experience in laboratory-based courses, have
completed internships, or have held summer jobs in laboratories also are
well qualified for science technician positions and are preferred by
Job candidates, who have extensive hands-on experience with a variety of
laboratory equipment, including computers and related equipment, usually
require a short period of on-the-job training. Those with a high school
diploma and no college degree typically begin work as trainees under the
direct supervision of a more experienced technician. Many with a high
school diploma eventually earn a 2-year degree in science technology,
often paid for by their employer.
Many technical and
community colleges offer associate degrees in a specific technology or
more general education in science and mathematics. A number of associate
degree programs are designed to provide easy transfer to bachelor's
degree programs at colleges or universities. Technical institutes
usually offer technician training, but they provide less theory and
general education than do community colleges. The length of programs at
technical institutes varies, although 1-year certificate programs and
2-year associate degree programs are common.
Some schools offer
cooperative-education or internship programs, allowing students the
opportunity to work at a local company or some other workplace while
attending classes during alternate terms. Participation in such programs
can significantly enhance a student's employment prospects.
People interested in
careers as science technicians should take as many high school science
and math courses as possible. Science courses taken beyond high school,
in an associate or bachelor's degree program, should be laboratory
oriented, with an emphasis on bench skills. A solid background in
applied chemistry, physics, and math is vital.
are important because technicians are often required to report their
findings both orally and in writing. In addition, technicians should be
able to work well with others. Because computers often are used in
research and development laboratories, technicians should also have
strong computer skills, especially in computer modeling. Organizational
ability, an eye for detail, and skill in interpreting scientific results
are important as well, as are a high mechanical aptitude, attention to
detail, and analytical thinking.
begin work as trainees in routine positions under the direct supervision
of a scientist or a more experienced technician. As they gain
experience, technicians take on more responsibility and carry out
assignments under only general supervision, and some eventually become
supervisors. However, technicians employed at universities often have
job prospects tied to those of particular professors; when those
professors retire or leave, these technicians face uncertain employment
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by
the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.