Make a difference as a medical laboratory technician
Find out about career possibilities in medical laboratories
An interesting career where you can make a difference
Health professionals such as medical laboratory technicians are currently in demand in Aotearoa New Zealand.
You can get paid while you train as a medical laboratory technician.
Medical laboratory technicians take medical samples and run tests under the supervision of scientists and pathologists.
"We're like science detectives"
“Laboratory technicians do different testing to find out what is causing a disease or an infection,” says Faezeh, a microbiology and molecular technician at Wellington SCL. “We are basically like science detectives who are trying to help the doctors to diagnose and choose the correct treatment for the patient.”
She says she enjoys the variety of work, which challenges her to think in different ways.
“This role would suit someone who is passionate and interested in human health, and they like thinking in a scientific way, and they are up for a challenge.”
Medical laboratory technicians:
- take blood and other samples from patients
- prepare slides of blood and other body fluids, and perform tests on these
- match blood for transfusions
- test for bacteria that can cause disease
- carry out antibiotic sensitivity and allergy testing.
“I’m passionate about helping people and that’s what I'm doing here,” says Faezeh. “For me that’s the part that I enjoy the most – that I'm helping people ... It makes me feel like I’m doing something good in this world.”
Watch a video of a day in the life of a Medical Laboratory Technician
Spend a day with Faezeh, a Medical Laboratory Technician
Hi guys, I’m Faezeh.
I work at Wellington SCL as a Microbiology and Molecular Technician.
Laboratory technicians do different testing to find out what is causing a disease or an infection.
We are basically like science detectives who are trying to help the doctors to diagnose and choose the correct treatment for the patient.
It makes me feel like I'm doing something good in this world.
So microbiology is the study of microorganisms which could be things like bacteria or fungi.
Molecular is just the same thing, but we’re looking for the genetic material of those microorganisms.
The difference is that in microbiology you have a sample that you can grow, and because you can grow, then you can do antibiotic testing that’s suitable for that bacteria,
But in molecular you have a target, Which could be a DNA & RNA and that’s what you’re finding.
When you’re a laboratory worker you do shift work.
I do 8 AM until 4.30 [PM]
Sometimes I'll have to do 1 PM until 10 PM.
I would look at what area I am covering and how many samples I have in the day that I need to be finishing before I go.
But you can never predict the workload.
It can always change day to day and season to season.
In my department I work with forty people. We test community and hospital samples.
So we do a variety of tests on different samples and those samples could be blood, urine, faeces. We do a lot of different kinds of swabs, which could be throat swabs, genital swabs,
wound swab and you get a lot of different bacteria and microorganisms from all of these.
Today I’m doing Faecal PCR.So these are for people who have gastrointestinal problems. They could have Salmonella, they could have Campylobacter.
So that’s what we’re trying to find out by doing this testing.
I like how I have a variety of work because there’s so many areas that I can cover.
Week to week we always get different microorganisms which makes it more interesting.
I like how in microbiology things are colourful, and every bacteria grows in different conditions.
I like how sometimes it can challenge you to think in a different way.
I’m looking at some Faecal results now. Someone analysed it earlier, and I’m just doing a second check on it now before we finalise the result.
This patient is positive for Giardia.
This patient is positive for Campylobacter.
This patient is positive for Shigella.
And I'm happy with all of them.
Perfect. That is all done.
This role would suit someone who is passionate
and interested in human health,
and they like thinking in a scentific way,
and they are up for a challenge.
It’s also important to know it involves shift work.
It’s physical. You could be on your feet all day, and it involves a lot of sample handling.
This looks like it’s so many samples but this is actually only for seven samples, and we’re on sample twenty-seven and normally we do more than a hundred so it’s going to be lots of plates.
To get in this job you need a science-related Bachelor and after that you have to sit for an exam which is a Medical Laboratory exam by the Medical Council.
From there you need to work full time for one year to become a registered Medical Laboratory Technician.
From being a lab technician you can also get into research, or going into different labs to expand your experience.
We even have people here who are team leaders and managers but they used to be lab technicians.
Keep in mind in some labs you can work full time and study part time to become a scientist.
I’m passionate about helping people and that’s what I'm doing here.
For me that’s the part that I enjoy the most - that I'm helping people.
How to become a medical laboratory technician
To become a medical laboratory technician, you need to work as a trainee in an approved laboratory for two years. Or, if you have a Bachelor of Science with a relevant major in biological science, you work as a trainee for one year.
Job opportunities are average for people entering the role, but good for experienced medical laboratory technicians.
With further training, you can become a medical laboratory scientist.
How you could specialise
Medical laboratory technicians can specialise in roles including:
- donor technicians, who collect blood and plasma from blood donors
- phlebotomy technicians, who collect blood and samples from patients for laboratory testing or blood banks
- specimen services technicians, who take blood, urine and tissue from patients for lab testing, and perform tests and procedures on patients.
Medical laboratory technicians work for private laboratories, hospitals and the New Zealand Blood Service.
Find out more
- New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science website – information about medical laboratory technician careers
- Sign up to our e-newsletter for job hunting tips delivered straight to your inbox
- New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science website, accessed October 2021, (www.nzimls.org.nz)
Updated 22 Oct 2021