Technicians work with lab equipment, take down observations and record data.
Lab technicians have more procedural responsibilities in research labs than their scientist co-workers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While scientists may decide what experiments to run or adjust procedures, technicians are responsible for setup and operation of equipment, observation and note-taking, and recording and calculation of results. How much you make in this role depends what kind of lab you work for. Technicians work in a number of roles, including geological sample testing, biology, chemistry, food science, nuclear science and environmental science.
The Highest Paid Positions
Technicians in nuclear research labs make the most, bringing home a mean hourly wage of $32.07 per hour, or $66,700 per year. These research professionals help nuclear physicists with equipment operation and maintenance, and also ensure that quality control procedures get followed. Geologic and petroleum technicians also net respectable salaries. Responsible for testing soil samples, charting characteristics of drill holes and collecting information to help find new excavation sites, these technicians make an average of $28.08 per hour, a yearly salary of $58,400 per year.
Middle of the Road
Technicians working in chemistry research make a modest living, earning an average of $21.11 per hour or $43,900 per year. Good news for those interested in protecting the environment is that environmental science and protection technicians earn a decent living while also helping to investigate pollution and its causes. They take home $20.92 per hour on average, or $43,520 annually. Biological lab technicians, who might help research anything from animals to prescription drug effects, can expect to make $19.78 per hour, equivalent to $41,140 yearly.
Agricultural and food scientist technicians may assist with anything from animal breeding to crop optimization to development of new packaged products, depending on their industry. They get paid a little less than other professionals for their efforts, making about $17.72 per hour or $36,850. Of all technicians profiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forest and conservation technicians take home the least, earning an average of $17.49 per hour — about $36,370 annually.
Wages Aren’t the Only Factor
If you know a career as a research laboratory technician is for you but you’re not sure where to specialize, pay shouldn’t be the only deciding factor. Passion and interest are important, as is job availability. Little employment growth is expected for geological and petroleum technicians and for chemical technicians through to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Environmental science opportunities are expected to increase faster than average, while all other sectors can expect an average increase in the number of jobs available.