Medical laboratory technicians conduct tests used by doctors and other qualified medical professionals to diagnose and treat disease. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in this field is expected to increase about 14 percent from 2008 to 2018. The average annual salary of medical laboratory technicians was $38,190 as of May 2009, the bureau says. Good lab technicians should exhibit a number of qualities.
Scientific knowledge is at the heart of the medical laboratory technician's career. Even though the technician does not conduct independent medical research per se, he needs a strong knowledge of several fields of science such as chemistry, biology, biochemistry, microbiology and physics. In particular, knowledge of chemical composition and how chemicals react with one another and other biological substances can help give the medical laboratory technician a thorough understanding of his field.
The medical laboratory technician also needs proficiency in various technological areas. Individuals working in this field must be proficient in the use of computers and electronics. This includes a general knowledge of computer hardware and software, along with electronics. It also includes a knowledge of medical software such as electronic medical record (EMR) software, test-routing software, test result delivery software and laboratory information system (LIS) software. Use of databases, spreadsheets and word-processing programs is also needed.
Because medical laboratory technicians often work in laboratory environments with other technicians, they need effective communication skills also. In some cases, technicians may collaborate on various projects or assignments and need to be able to effectively convey their procedures and the results of their findings to other technicians. They also need to be able to communicate with physicians, patients and other medical personnel regarding their findings. Communications skills needed include listening and speaking skills, but they also include writing skills, as medical laboratory technicians must be able to accurately record and document their test results.
A potpourri of other qualities are necessary. Medical laboratory technicians must be detail-oriented, for example, because as the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out, slight changes in readings on tests can affect the interpretation of the test and subsequent medical diagnosis. Laboratory technicians need to be strong problem-solvers and exhibit strong analytical thinking skills.