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What Does a Chemical Laboratory Technician Do?

A chemical laboratory technician is a person who carries out chemical experiments and documents findings, usually under the guidance of a more experienced chemist. The lab tech may be a student working on a chemistry degree or related credential, though many chemical laboratory technician candidates must hold a bachelor's degree before he or she can be considered for hire. An extensive knowledge of the principals of chemistry, as well as a thorough understanding of the Periodic Table of Elements, is required in order to become a lab tech. Depending on the size of the laboratory, several lab techs may work together in the same lab.

A chemist may design an experiment that is to be carried out in a lab, but the chemical laboratory technician may be responsible for carrying out most of the steps of that experiment. It will therefore be necessary for the technician to organize other lab techs as well as the necessary equipment, document the procedures of each step as well as the findings of the experiment or any problems that were encountered during the process, and report those findings to the chemist who organized the experiment. In many cases, the chemist may be present in the lab to oversee the procedure as it happens.

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Maintenance of the equipment used in a lab will also fall on the shoulders of the chemical laboratory technician. If the equipment is not maintained properly, experiments and procedures may be adversely affected. Safety procedures must also be followed by the chemical laboratory technician to prevent injury to himself or others; dangerous chemicals are often present in the lab, which means the lab tech must wear appropriate safety equipment including a lab coat, eye protection, gloves, and gas masks when appropriate. Disposal of hazardous waste must be done in accordance with local laws and regulations; this process will often be the responsibility of the lab tech.

Frequently, the lab tech will need to write up reports that summarize the experiment and the findings. This means the tech will need to have solid writing skills as well as impeccable organizational skills. Much of the work can be tedious and stressful, so a patient and detail-oriented person will be best suited to this type of work. Interaction with other lab techs as well as chemists or other scientists will be necessary, to the chemical laboratory technician will need good communication skills on top of everything else.

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