Laboratory managers ensure the operational efficiency of clinical, forensic, research and development, and medical laboratories. They play an important role in ensuring researchers, scientists and other laboratory users conduct successful experiments or investigations. If you are a good personnel manager with an interest in science, this is a career that could suit you.
What do Laboratory Managers do?
Their primary duties include:
- Supervising and training staff who may include lab technicians, technologists and cleaners
- Formulating and enforcing policies governing laboratory use – this includes safety procedures and regulations
- Reviewing and approving/rejecting requests from people who want to use the laboratory
- Drafting budgets and placing purchase requisitions for laboratory supplies
- Managing the laboratory inventory
- Investigating and addressing the causes of laboratory accidents
- Ensuring lab waste is disposed in compliance with environmental safety regulations.
Laboratory managers usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They spend their workday in the laboratories supervising activities.
Depending on the nature of a laboratory, these managers may wear various types of protective clothing to avoid workplace injuries or accidents
According to salary.com, the median annual salary for lab managers is $91,309. The table provides the salaries for the lowest and highest earning managers:
Lowest earning laboratory managers
$69,582 - $79,936
Highest earning laboratory managers
$100,824 - $109,487
Education and Experience
It takes a combination of the right education and relevant experience to be hired as a laboratory manager.
As such, the first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree majoring in a field you wish to work. For example, if you wish to work in healthcare laboratories, you can get started with a degree in medical technology or clinical laboratory science. If you wish to work in a computer forensics laboratory, then you need a computer science degree. If you want to work in textile manufacturing, then a textile technology degree will do.
Be sure to conduct some background research to gather more information on the degrees that open doors to a laboratory management job in your preferred field.
After graduating, you will certainly begin as a laboratory technician/technologist or research assistant. Use this position to gain as much laboratory experience as possible.
To be an effective laboratory manager, you need:
- Superb skills in personnel management
- The ability to develop and implement policies
- Strong recordkeeping skills
- Strong communication skills
- Good technical and practical skills
- Good budgeting and inventory management skills
- Good teamwork skills
- A good work ethic
- Good knowledge of environmental health and safety regulations
- A passion for science and technology.
The amount of time you need to transition from a lab technician to a laboratory manager ultimately depends on your determination and competence. To stand out from a pool of other laboratory workers looking to become managers, you should:
- Pursue a masters degree in laboratory management
- Pursue a relevant professional certification, such as the American Society for Quality’s Quality Inspector credential. This proves to potential employers that you are committed to ensuring experiments are conducted in adherence to the set quality procedures.
With these credentials, the lab manager’s job could be yours. You can then join the Association of Laboratory Managers to demonstrate your professionalism and access other professional development resources.
Qualified lab managers can be hired by:
- Healthcare facilities
- Colleges and universities
- Government agencies
- Manufacturing plants
- Companies that provide forensic services
- Environmental companies
- Research and development firms
After gaining vast management experience, you could be hired as the lead laboratory manager in organizations that have several laboratories in various regions.
In general, the BLS reports that the employment of management professionals will grow by 6 percent from 2012 though 2022. Although this is slightly slower than the 11 percent average for all jobs, there is a likelihood the demand for lab managers will rise. Many companies are engaging in research and development activities, meaning more labs are being built.
So if you want to ensure labs are run safely and efficiently, then becoming a laboratory manager can be a wise move.