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Medical Laboratory Scientist

Kaipūtaiao Taiwhanga Rongoā

Alternative titles for this job

Medical laboratory scientists carry out laboratory tests on blood, tissues and other samples taken from patients.


Medical laboratory scientists usually earn

$50K-$71K per year

Senior medical laboratory scientists usually earn

$71K-$105K per year

Source: APEX and DHBs, 2021.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a medical laboratory scientist are good due to a shortage of workers.


Pay for medical laboratory scientists varies depending on experience.

  • Trainee medical laboratory scientists usually earn $50,000 to $56,000 a year.
  • Medical laboratory scientists with one to six years' experience usually earn $56,000 to $71,000.
  • Supervising or senior medical laboratory scientists can earn up to $105,000.

Sources: APEX and District Health Boards, 'Multi-employer Collective Agreement', 2021.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Medical laboratory scientists may do some or all of the following:

  • test and study blood, tissue and fluid samples
  • prepare samples for pathologists
  • evaluate tests and report results to doctors
  • test, set up, use and maintain laboratory equipment
  • maintain laboratory quality assurance and safety standards
  • supervise and train other staff such as medical laboratory technicians
  • develop new methods and equipment for laboratory testing.

Skills and knowledge

Medical laboratory scientists need to have:

  • a good understanding of chemistry, biology, maths and physiology (the study of how living organisms work and respond to diseases)
  • practical skills for performing experiments and operating scientific equipment
  • thorough understanding of laboratory safety
  • the ability to follow scientific procedures.

Working conditions

Medical laboratory scientists:

  • do shift work, and may work weekends or be on call
  • work in community, hospital, commercial or veterinary diagnostic laboratories
  • may travel locally to take samples at doctors' surgeries, hospitals, rest homes, patients' homes and workplaces.

Entry requirements

To become a medical laboratory scientist you need to:

  • have a Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science or a Graduate Diploma in Science
  • work as a trainee medical laboratory scientist for at least six months.

You also need to be registered with the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand.

Alternative entry paths for medical laboratory technicians

Medical laboratory technicians can do a Graduate Diploma in Science or a Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science to become a medical laboratory scientist if they:

  • are a registered medical laboratory technician
  • have worked for at least a year in a New Zealand Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
  • have a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Biomedical Science.

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry and maths.

Personal requirements

Medical laboratory scientists need to be:

  • methodical and accurate
  • careful and safety-conscious
  • enquiring
  • adaptable
  • reliable
  • good at problem solving
  • good at communicating.

Useful experience

Useful experience for medical laboratory scientists includes:

  • laboratory work
  • scientific work
  • work in the health sector.


Medical laboratory scientists need to be registered with the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand, and have an Annual Practising Certificate.

Find out more about training

Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand
(04) 801 6250 - msc@medsci.co.nz - www.mscouncil.org.nz
NZ Institute of Medical Laboratory Science (NZIMLS)
(03) 313 4761 - cpd@nzimls.org.nz - www.nzimls.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Shortage of medical laboratory scientists

Demand for medical laboratory scientists is high due to:

  • an ageing population with more health problems that require tests
  • demand for new types of laboratory testing due to greater scientific understanding of biological processes.

Medical laboratory scientist (cytoscientist) appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled medical laboratory scientists from overseas to work in New Zealand.

According to the Census, 1,773 medical laboratory scientists worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Chances better for highly skilled scientists

Demand is particularly high for medical laboratory scientists who:

  • have experience managing laboratory teams
  • have specialist knowledge in laboratory technologies due to technological advances in diagnostic laboratory testing and analytical instrumentation
  • specialise in cytoscience as genetic technologies are rapidly advancing and there is a shortage of workers.

Types of employers varied

Most medical laboratory scientists work for hospitals and private laboratory services. 

Other employers include:

  • scientific research laboratories
  • the New Zealand Blood Service
  • universities
  • veterinary clinics.


  • APEX and District Health Boards, 'Multi-employer Collective Agreement', 2021, (www.tas.health.nz).
  • Auckland University of Technology, 'A Future in Medical Laboratory Science', August 2019, (www.aut.ac.nz).
  • Broadbent, J, continuing professional development and membership co-ordinator, New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science, careers.govt.nz interview, April 2021.
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Medical Sciences Council, 'Annual Report: 1 April 2019-31 March 2020’, accessed April 2021, (www.mscouncil.org.nz).
  • Medical Sciences Council, 'Medical Laboratory Scientist', accessed March 2021, (www.mscouncil.org.nz).
  • New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science, 'A Career as a Medical Laboratory Scientist or Technician', accessed March 2021, (www.nzimls.org.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Medical laboratory scientists may progress into managerial or supervisory roles in a laboratory.

With further postgraduate study, they may do research into particular disciplines and scientific methods, or become university lecturers. They may also move into other areas such as teaching, animal health, the food industry, or working for commercial science companies.

Medical laboratory scientists usually specialise in two or more of the following disciplines:

Clinical Biochemist
Clinical biochemists analyse samples of blood, urine, faeces and tissue for diseases such as diabetes and renal failure.
Clinical Immunologist
Clinical immunologists study the body's immune system to test for diseases such as allergies and HIV infection.
Cytogeneticists investigate genetic disease and how chromosomes are affected by disease.
Haematologists analyse blood samples for diseases such as anaemia and cancer.
Histologists prepare tissue samples for investigation by a pathologist.
Medical Cytologist/Cytoscientist
Medical cytologists/cytoscientists test cell samples for cancer.
Medical Microbiologist
Medical microbiologists detect, cultivate and test bacteria and fungi.
Transfusion Scientist
Transfusion scientists prepare blood and blood products for transfusion.
A medical microbiologist using a microscope to test bacteria in a laboratory

Medical laboratory scientists run tests on body fluids for doctors

Last updated 18 October 2021