Detailed Guide for Biological Technicians in California
May also be called: Biological Science Laboratory Technicians; Environmental Technicians; Resource Biologists; Wildlife Biology Technicians
What Would I Do?
Biological Technicians* work with biologists studying living organisms. They set up, operate, and maintain laboratory instruments; monitor experiments; make observations; calculate and record results; and often develop conclusions. Many assist scientists who conduct medical research-helping to find a cure for cancer or AIDS, for example. Those who work for pharmaceutical companies help develop and manufacture medicines, while those working in the field of microbiology generally work as laboratory assistants, studying living organisms and infectious agents. They also analyze organic substances, such as blood, food, and drugs. Biological Technicians working in biotechnology apply knowledge and techniques gained from basic research, including gene splicing and recombinant DNA, and apply them to product development.
Tools and Technology
Biological Technicians normally use such tools as inverted microscopes, manual or electronic hematology differential cell counters, microplate readers, electrophoresis boxes, and automated liquid handling systems, among others. They should also be proficient in analytical, database user interface and query, graphics or photo imaging, spreadsheet, and word processing software.
Within the green economy, Biological Technicians often work as part of a natural resource management team. They can make field observations of natural resource conditions, assist in preparation of draft reports, plans, and guidelines, and provide logistical support and area orientation for contract and cooperating scientists. Biological Technicians may also provide assistance to students, student conservation assistants, and volunteers involved in resource management projects and field research. With additional short-term training in plant propagation and tissue culture, Biological Technicians also aid in the production of biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.
Green economy activities may provide Biological Technicians with opportunities in the natural resource conservation area, but there will be minimal changes to the work and worker requirements. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Conduct research or assist in the conduct of research, including the collection of information and samples, such as blood, water, soil, plants and animals.||Information Ordering|
|Analyze experimental data and interpret results to write reports and summaries of findings.||Critical Thinking|
|Keep detailed logs of all work-related activities.||Written Comprehension|
|Use computers, computer-interfaced equipment, robotics or high-technology industrial applications to perform work duties.||Reading Comprehension|
|Set up, adjust, calibrate, clean, maintain, and troubleshoot laboratory and field equipment.||Selective Attention|
|Measure or weigh compounds and solutions for use in testing or animal feed.||Category Flexibility|
|Isolate, identify and prepare specimens for examination.||Science|
|Examine animals and specimens to detect the presence of disease or other problems.||Inductive Reasoning|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Information Ordering||The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).|
|Critical Thinking||Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.|
|Written Comprehension||The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.|
|Reading Comprehension||Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.|
|Selective Attention||The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.|
|Category Flexibility||The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.|
|Science||Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.|
|Inductive Reasoning||The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).|
Biological Technicians work under a wide variety of conditions. Most work indoors, usually in laboratories, and have regular hours. Some occasionally work irregular hours to monitor experiments that cannot be completed during regular working hours. Production Biological Technicians often work in eight-hour shifts around the clock. Other Biological Technicians, such as those who work in State or national parks, fisheries, and other natural resource conservation areas, may perform much of their work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations.
Biological Technicians sometimes work with carcinogenic or radioactive agents or disease-causing organisms. However, these working conditions pose little risk if proper safety procedures are followed.
Biological Technicians are generally not unionized, except when employed by federal, State, or local government.
Will This Job Fit Me?
People interested in becoming Biological Technicians should enjoy work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They should also like to work with ideas, search for facts, and figure out problems mentally.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2016 for Biological Technicians in California is $50,288 annually, or $24.18 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Biological Technicians may expect to receive benefit packages including medical, dental, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and a 401(k). Some employers of Biological Technicians also offer various bonus and incentive packages.
What is the Job Outlook?
Most job openings will be created by the need to replace Biological Technicians who retire or leave the field for other reasons. Green economy activities and technologies may increase the demand for Biological Technicians; however, like many occupations, employment may be sensitive to fluctuations in the economy.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Biological Technicians is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Biological Technicians are expected to increase by 17.1 percent, or 1,900 jobs between 2012 and 2022.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 180 new job openings per year is expected for Biological Technicians, plus an additional 330 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 520 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
Prospective Biological Technicians should have at least an associate degree or a certificate in applied science or science-related technology. Many technical and community colleges offer programs in a specific technology or more general education in science and mathematics. However, some employers of Biological Technicians prefer applicants who hold a bachelor's degree in one of the biological sciences. A number of associate degree programs are designed to provide easy transfer to bachelor’s degree programs at colleges or universities.
Those interested in a career as a Biological Technician may benefit from specialized training under the direct supervision of a more experienced technician. This hands-on experience in a laboratory or field setting, combined with one's classroom learning of scientific principles and theory, usually will produce the well-rounded applicant for which many employers of Biological Technicians are looking.
Early Career Planning
High school students interested in careers as Biological Technicians should take as many 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.
While continuing education is not mandatory to become or stay employed as a Biological Technician, many in the field may find it worthwhile to keep updated on the ever-changing nature of scientific theories and laboratory techniques.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Biological Technicians are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Scientific Research and Development Svc ||40.8%|
|Pharmaceutical & Medicine Manufacturing ||15.2%|
|Colleges and Universities ||12.5%|
|Federal Government ||8.7%|
|Architectural and Engineering Services ||6.3%|
Finding a Job
Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Newspaper classified ads, Internet job listings, job fairs, professional associations, social networking sites, or college career centers may also provide job leads. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Biological Technicians.
- Biological Laboratories
- Environmental and Ecological Consultants
- Laboratories-Research and Development
- Pharmaceutical Companies
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
Biological Technicians usually 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. Biological Technicians who have a bachelor's degree often are able to advance to biologist positions after a few years of experience working as a Technician or after earning a graduate degree.
Below is a list of occupations related to Biological Technicians with links to more information.
|Dietitians and Nutritionists||Guide|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists||Guide|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.