More biological technicians work in California than any other state in the nation, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industries with the highest employment levels and wages include scientific research and development, education and pharmaceutical manufacturing. In Los Angeles, these laboratory assistants earn an average annual salary of nearly $50,000 in a vocation that plays a significant role in scientific advancements.

(Photo Courtesy of Dr. Robert M. Nissen)

(Photo Courtesy of Dr. Robert M. Nissen)

“Under the leadership of medical and research scientists in both academic and industrial settings, technicians in the biological sciences often literally provide the hands that drive innovation and discovery by keeping the physical centers of scientific activity running at peak performance,” said Dr. Robert M. Nissen, a professor and chair of the department of biological sciences at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).

How is environmental science benefiting?

“Many of the same tools used in medical research and diagnostics are now also applied to environmental research, analysis and remediation, making a steady supply of skilled biological technicians also valuable to local and federal agencies.”

How is CSULA preparing the next wave of technicians?

“Starting this year, we revamped our biotechnology certificate program to include an internship experience to train students for technical careers that link them directly to the biotechnology sector. This is in addition to providing students with extensive hands-on training in the biological sciences through both our laboratory-intensive undergraduate curriculum and our post-baccalaureate and master’s level graduate programs.”

What is the best way to prepare for a sustainable career in this field?

“These days, the hot topics in education often revolve around virtual online experiences, however, for hands-on and wet laboratory-intensive careers, there is no real substitute for directly handling and operating the advanced instrumentation and machinery for conducting experiments that a face-to-face apprenticeship-style educational experience provides.”

What is your message to aspiring biological technicians?

“An excellent technician needs the mental acuity to grasp the theory behind techniques, as well as the manual dexterity to accurately execute the procedures – the perfect union of concept and practice. Those who are interested in the biological technician career should seek out training programs that clearly unite these elements.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.

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