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What Does a Laboratory Manager Do?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A laboratory manager supervises operations in a medical or scientific lab to ensure safety and quality. The manager may set policies, hire and fire staff, maintain equipment, and engage in other activities to keep the facility running smoothly. Job listings for lab managers may be found at individual facilities, in trade publications, and through recruiters. It is usually necessary to have at least a four year degree, and a master’s degree may be preferred by some companies.

One aspect of the work of the laboratory manager can involve handling personnel. People may be hired, trained, and fired by the manager, who also establishes schedules and provides leave and vacation time. Conflicts in the facility may be handled by this member of the staff first, and only referred to other personnel if they are difficult to resolve. In addition to coordinating lab employees, managers also work with people who use the lab, like researchers, doctors, and students, to make sure they know how to use the equipment appropriately.

Safety protocols may be established by the laboratory manager, who is also responsible for providing safety information and periodically auditing the lab. These procedures protect workers in the facility and also act as quality controls. For example, workers in a medical testing laboratory exercise precautions to prevent cross-contamination or loss of samples. If forensic evidence is handled in the facility, the laboratory manager also supervises chain of custody protocols to make sure the evidence will be usable in court.

Periodic testing, calibration, maintenance, and replacement of equipment can also be the responsibility of the lab manager. This can include not just scientific equipment but also tables, chairs, file cabinets, and computer systems. If it is necessary to call in a repair person or technician, the laboratory manager may solicit bids and determine which company to use for the service. Inspectors and regulatory officials can ask to see proof of equipment maintenance and related activities, making maintenance of records important.

Supply ordering may also be part of the job, along with budgeting. People who need specific supplies request them through the laboratory manager or an assistant. For expensive or complex orders, approval may be necessary, which could involve a discussion with a researcher or technician to determine the specific need. In some cases it might be possible to use a different source or approach a problem differently to save money, for example.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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