How to become a Medical Laboratory Assistant?

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A medical laboratory assistant assists physicians in collecting health information and medical specimens from patients. They perform the task of sterilising lab equipment, preparing a patient’s blood or urine samples for testing, examining them under a microscope, and keeping records of lab activities. Their role in the healthcare field is undeniable.

Medical Laboratory Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

There can be various duties and responsibilities of a medical lab assistant, depending on the organisation. Amongst the many, the five major responsibilities performed by a medical laboratory assistant are listed below:

Sampling– A medical lab assistant collects blood and urine samples from patients for testing in the lab.

Labelling– A lab assistant labels the container containing specimens to avoid any swap in the collected samples. 

Specimen collection-It is the collection of any fluid-like substance that is tested in the laboratory.  Lab assistants collect those specimens and send them to the laboratory for testing. 

Lab equipment maintenance– Lab assistants sterilise and maintain the lab equipment. 

Data entry– A lab assistant performs the task of recording data in computers.

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Skills required to be a Medical Lab Assistant

A medical lab assistant requires a number of skills to perform the job efficiently.  Employers look for the following skills before hiring a lab assistant:

  • Good organisational skills– Lab assistants need good organisational skills to record and label the samples collected from the patients.
  • Technical skills- Lab assistants should know how to operate laboratory equipment such as cell counters or microscopes. They should have a clear knowledge of different medical terminologies.
  • Observation skill- Lab assistants  perform tasks like taking blood samples of patients and preparing slides of blood under microscopes. They should be observant to learn these tasks. 
  • Accuracy in tasks- The tasks performed by a lab assistant should be accurate. Lack of concentration in the workplace might put patients’ lives at risk.  
  • Careful handling of samples and equipment– The blood and urine samples of the patients are used to diagnose patients’ health conditions. So, a lab assistant needs to be cautious to avoid any damage to the collected samples. Furthermore, they should know how to operate and maintain lab equipment.

Qualities of a Good Medical Lab Assistant

A medical laboratory assistant should be enthusiastic towards his/her profession and have a passion for performing the job diligently. The key attributes of a good lab assistant are the ability to pay close attention to detail, efficiency and accuracy while collecting specimens, having problem solving and time management skills. Having empathy and cooperativeness would help to create a good bond with colleagues and patients.

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Challenges of Working as a Medical Lab Assistant

A medical lab assistant’s work can be difficult at times. It is a pretty challenging stream of career compared to other careers. 

The job requires standing for hours and spending most of the time inside the lab. The lab assistants need to be extra careful because a false test result could harm a patient. As they handle specimens and harmful chemicals, they need to wear protective goggles, gloves, and masks which can be uncomfortable. Since hospitals and some labs are always open, working on weekends and overnight are common for medical lab assistants.

Medical Laboratory Assistant Training Programs

In the medical laboratory assistant training programs, students usually learn the procedures of blood collection, analytical sample collection, and sample preparation. They are also trained on patient and client-centric behaviour. 

There is an associate’s degree program where students learn about human anatomy, microbiology, haematology, immunology, along with general education courses such as math, science and communication. Students can gain practical skills by doing part-time work in hospitals and labs as interns.  

A certificate program, on the other hand, provides knowledge on the core concepts of medical lab assistantship and phlebotomy.

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Qualifications Required to be a Medical Lab Assistant

Typically, a candidate with a high school diploma or GED can apply for the medical lab assistant post. However, formal training from an accredited medical assistant school is always a plus point. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in microbiology, chemistry, biology or biotechnology can broaden the career opportunity. In some cases, employers might train their medical laboratory assistants

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Career Opportunities as a Medical Laboratory Assistant

Laboratory assistant is required in every healthcare department. This can be a good career choice as there would always remain the demand for a lab assistant. They can work in various hospitals, clinics, research labs, medical and diagnostic labs. 

According to Medical Laboratory Assistant’s Career and Salary Facts, published in Learn– The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that between 2018 and 2028, there is an expected 11% increase in job growth for medical lab assistants. 

A medical laboratory assistant can work as a phlebotomist, diagnostic assistant, pathology assistant and technical assistant. A lab assistant does not provide services for a particular department. They can work in several departments like management, quality control and assurance, education and research. If one pursues proper education and training in the relevant field, they can improve their position and income.

Salaries of lab assistants might vary according to region and organisation. Their levels of education and training would determine the salaries. As claimed by Indeedthe common salary of medical lab assistants in the U.S. is $15.30 per hour. Alsoaccording to jobbank.gov.ca, the average medical lab assistant salary in Canada is anywhere from $24,960 to $41,600 per year.


Knowing all the criteria of how to become a medical laboratory assistant from this blog, you can start preparing yourself to be a medical lab assistant. Being a medical laboratory assistant can be satisfying for those who are passionate about treating people suffering from critical conditions. The long working hours will not demotivate them to work as a lab assistant if they have a strong desire to flourish in this field. With enthusiasm and patience, medical lab assistants can play a critical role in the healthcare field

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