How to work in a laboratory: the type of training you’ll need

Article written by CEMP's team

Would you like to know how to work in a laboratory and what type of training you need? Have you always dreamed of finding a job in the medical sector and developing your work around test tubes, microscopes and flasks?

Without a doubt, the field of researching, preventing and diagnosing medical disorders is fascinating, although it also requires a certain vocation, specialized training and certain very particular personality traits.

Throughout this article, we’ll guide you to learn what courses and study pathways are more interesting for you to achieve your goal, such as a Master’s degree in medical laboratory science.

Shall we start?


What is a clinical laboratory?

A clinical laboratory is a space where clinical analysis is developed for researching, diagnosing and preventing health issues.

As such, it represents a key piece for human health, providing a solution to a basic social need.

As you probably already know, there are many types of laboratories and many different specialized fields, and the professionals working at these centers are specialized in diverse areas in the scientific and sanitary sector.

Thus, in a clinical laboratory context, human and animal biological samples are analyzed in order to research or diagnose a wide range of pathologies and to establish the most efficient treatments to eliminate them.

Blood, urine and stool are the most frequent among the biological samples analyzed in a clinical laboratory; synovial fluids, saliva, semen, pharyngeal, urethral and vaginal exudates are also examined, among many others.

With the obtained results, the clinical laboratory generates a corresponding analytical report, which is a document that sums up analysis results, ready to be sent to the physician or patient, depending on each case.


What are the actual prospects of working in a laboratory?

The importance of clinical laboratories is fundamental, as it allows medical professionals to access the tools necessary for their practice.

In fact, the work of professionals working at clinical laboratories also serves as a link between primary and specialized care.

It must also be noted that the diagnosis, treatment and prevention  of multiple health disorders is still being developed or perfected. Besides, new conditions arise every day which demand attention and research. On the other hand, the typical life expectancy is getting longer.

Clinical laboratories can be found inside hospitals, private and public laboratories, belonging to different organisms or entities, presenting a broad or a specialized scope; there are laboratories for both human or veterinary medicine, and in such diverse fields as the industry, education and other areas of medical science.

Because of all these factors, job opportunities are increasingly growing, in different fields and specializations, and continue to be absolutely essential to preserve human health.

Anyway, before seeing how to work in laboratory and what is the necessary specialized training, let’s first go through what professional profiles can be found at these centers and what are their areas of specialization.


What are the main working areas in a clinical laboratory

General clinical laboratories, in charge of executing what are known as routine tests, commonly present the following departments and areas of action according to their object of analysis: 

  • Hematology: the study of blood and related tissues, blood count and morphology tests, etc.
  • Coagulation: different tests related with coagulation times, haemorrhagic disorders, hypercoagulability, etc.
  • Biochemistry: it focuses on the analysis of chemical elements present in blood and urine, such as cholesterol, glucose, uric acid, etc.
  • Microbiology: studies bacteria and eukaryotes for diagnosing infectious disorders.
  • Immunology: it focuses on studying the immunology system, antibody and antigen identification, autoimmune disorders and immunodeficiencies.
  • Endocrinology: its study field is alterations in endocrine glands.
  • Coprology: analysis on stool samples for diagnosing disorders related to the digestive tract.

Thus, laboratories are in charge of quantitative and qualitative clinical analysis across all these fields. As such, staff, installations and equipment must all be accordingly ready for these operations.

Of course, there also are specialized clinical laboratories, which focus on one or more specific areas. These address analysis that are complex in a medium to high range, within the disciplines we’ve seen above or others. As an example, allergies, pathological anatomy, cytogenetics, etc.

In any case, in order to fully understand how to work in a laboratory, we must also analyze what type of professional profiles work in these centers in a coordinated manner.


What are the professional profiles working in a laboratory?

As you probably know, teams working at clinical laboratories are multidisciplinar. That is, they’re made of professionals who belong to diverse disciplines.

This is because, in order to diagnose a disorder, it’s frequently necessary to involve physicians, biologists, and laboratory technicians, among other professional profiles.

As such, each of these professionals is able to bringing their field’s specialized perspective, while all of them work united to achieve a common scientific goal. 

The most common profiles include:

  • Clinical chemist
  • Clinical analyst
  • Physician
  • Clinical pathologist
  • Laboratory technician
  • Diagnosis and clinical analysis technicians
  • Biotechnologists
  • Biologists
  • Biochemists


How to work in laboratory: the specialized training you need

Obviously, specialized studies and training are indispensable to work at a clinical laboratory. In fact, specific academic training is needed as an essential condition to access this type of job.

On the other hand, as there are many different types of clinical laboratories, there’s also a wide variety of job positions to be filled. Let’s see the specific training you’ll need to access the most common of them:


1. Specialty doctors

In order to access this job position you must have studied a degree in Medicine.

Besides, you’ll need the corresponding specialization in the area of your choice. There are a wide range of specializations in this field: from radiodiagnosis to clinical analysis, as well as genetic medicine or pathological anatomy.


2. Biologist/biochemist

Someone with a degree in Biology or Biochemistry can also work as a specialist within his own field within a clinical laboratory.

In fact, it’s then possible to access several job positions: laboratory professional, specialist in genetics, in bioethics, reproduction technician, etc.


3. Laboratory technician

If you have a degree in sciences, such as Chemistry, Biomedical Sciences, Pharmacology, Biology or Biotechnology, you could become a laboratory technician.

However, there’s another training path to work as a technician in a clinical laboratory. It involves joining a National or Higher National Diploma focusing on this specialization.

There’s also a certificate of higher education related to clinical and biomedical laboratories. These studies qualify you to execute analysis for biological samples and offer a general picture about general techniques, biology, physiopathology, biochemical and hematological analysis, microbiology, etc. 

Its duration is around 2.000 hours and is organized in different modules. There are a number of possibilities in order to access certification: public or private centers, on-site or online, as well as accessing through independent tests.

Having a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) or a HNC or HND is an essential condition.


4. Laboratory assistant

You can work as a laboratory assistant with a degree in science or after getting a Certificate of Higher Education (HNC) that is directly linked to this area of work.

The main functions in this job position are related to the support and assistance for different tasks in a laboratory. For instance, preparing or organizing materials, cleaning and maintenance of equipment, etc.


Should you do a Master’s degree in order to work at a clinical laboratory?

Our overview of how to work in a laboratory wouldn’t be complete without speaking about Master’s degrees related to this field.

Thus, joining a Master’s in clinical analysis represents an extraordinary option to access this type of job.

Of course, there are many diverse educational options in this field, with different characteristics, prices and quality. As such, we recommend you to thoroughly research the different options, in order to find the one that better meets your needs.

You should make a priority the Master’s degrees that:

  • Present quality teachers with significant professional experience in the field
  • Offer a complete and ambitious program, which provides a thorough solution to your training needs
  • Combine theori¡etical teaching with practical training, so that you’ll be ready to work at actual clinical laboratories in the future
  • Have a teaching model that adjusts to your needs. Online training or blended learning have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to technological improvements in virtual classes.

As such, if you’ve got a degree in sciences or medicine and would like to get specialized training in this field or simply extend your knowledge in order to improve your job opportunities, these Master’s represent an excellent option for you.

Thus, a good Master’s degree in clinical analysis will provide you with knowledge in areas such as hematology, biochemical and immunological techniques, genetics, microbiology and parasitology, virology, cytology, etc. Besides, it will represent the perfect introduction to work in this field (biological sample collection, biochemical tests, specific analysis, immunology, etc.).

Without a doubt, this knowledge will open the door to working in a laboratory.

Now that you know more about how to work in a laboratory and what the needed training is, let’s go through the required aptitudes in order to develop this job proficiently.


What are the required abilities or skills necessary for those working in laboratories?

Apart from knowing what to study to work in a clinical laboratory, it’s also interesting to know what are the required abilities and skills to develop the tasks related to clinical analysis.

As such, apart from motivation and scientific knowledge, we can also highlight the following:

  • Methodical traits: this is a rigorous work, where measurements and results must be exact. As such, it’s essential that the person undertaking this job is able to register test results in a precise manner.
  • Ability to focus: many tasks undertaken at a clinical laboratory require a huge capacity for attention and absolute precision at work
  • Self-organization and analytical capacities: in order to guarantee an adequate work flow at the laboratory, it’s necessary to be highly organized and achieve maximum efficiency, so that the likelihood of mistakes that invalidate the work that is performed is minimized.
  • Capacity to work in a team: as we’ve seen, clinical laboratories involve the work of professionals that present different profiles in a coordinated manner. As such, it’s desirable to present a great capacity for integration, empathy, a feeling of belonging, active listening and communication abilities. 


Choose the best training to work at a clinical laboratory

Now that you know what to study to work at a clinical laboratory, it’s probably easier to make the right decision.

As such, depending on your previous training, your specific needs and your job expectations, you’ll be able to opt for different academic pathways.

In any case, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge and get an in-depth understanding of clinical analysis to improve your professional profile, a good master’s degree in clinical analysis such as the one offered by CEMP might be your best alternative.

Without a sound, this could improve your job possibilities in a noteworthy way.

In any case, if you want to know more about this program, don’t hesitate to ask us for more information without any compromises through our contact form.


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