Lab assistant jobs are on the increase spurred in part by Covid-19 and the urgent need for testing. Since most lab jobs in infectious disease labs call for technicians to help medical laboratory scientists, this is an opportunity for lab assistants to instantly improve their career prospects.
We have sampled scores of lab assistant job opportunities including many that involve testing for the coronavirus. Many don’t require experience, which means there will be hundreds of prospects for every job.
You need to stand out from all the other candidates, and we are here to show you how.
Resume objective for lab assistant
A typical job description for a lab assistant involves conducting tests, processing specimens, and performing a variety of administrative tasks depending on the nature of the laboratory.
Most also involve cleaning and sanitizing equipment, setting up experiments, and recording data for analysis and the writing of reports.
However, every job is different, and you need to focus on the requirements of the job description when you decide what to include in your resume.
Bearing in mind that many companies, large and small, use automated tracking systems (ATSs) to sort applicants for jobs, a good strategy is to look for keywords employers might have tagged for tracking.
It’s difficult to know when companies are using an ATS but it’s worth remembering that even human recruiters keep an eye out for keywords.
Examples range from tasks that are specified – specimen handling, peripheral smears, aliquotting – to skills that are required – data entry, troubleshooting, testing slides, and all those mentioned in the next section.
Keywords might also relate to the experience and qualifications required, including certifications. Just be sure to add the keywords naturally.
Efficient lab assistant with more than two years of experience. Skilled in specimen collection and record-keeping. Nationally Certified Multi-Skilled Medical Laboratory Assistant (NCMSMLA).
Resume skills for lab assistant
The skills a lab assistant needs include the ability and knowledge relating directly to the job. As a lab assistant, you need to be able to collect samples, handle specimens in a laboratory setting, and perform the required tests on blood, urine, and so on.
As a lab assistant, you are also expected to be able to calibrate and maintain equipment.
You also need to be able to chart lab results correctly and report the results to a medical scientist, physician, or whichever senior staff member is in charge. These reports need to be detailed and accurate.
The recruitment website, Indeed, adds less specific skills that are regarded as equally important by employers.
In addition to experience working with lab equipment (which is a given), they list the need for excellent attention to detail, verbal and written communication skills, and research and analysis skills.
They also highlight the need for good teamwork skills, mathematical and measurement skills, and a thorough knowledge of computer research and analysis programs.
Other important so-called soft skills include the ability to collaborate, independence, and all-important interpersonal skills.
Math and measurement | Calibration | Research & computer analysis | Teamwork | Communication | Collaboration | Accuracy | Attention to detail | Microsoft Office | Lab work – specimens, testing, reporting
Lab assistant work experience
Clinical laboratory technologists commonly called medical laboratory scientists, and lab technicians collect samples and perform tests so that they can analyze blood, body fluids, tissue samples, and other substances.
Lab assistants help them to do their jobs, often cleaning and preparing the lab before and after use.
While there are many common factors in lab jobs, if you’ve worked in a specialized clinical laboratory like a blood bank, your work experience will be a bit different.
When you list your previous experience, you need to show how the tasks you performed match or dovetail with the tasks that will be required in the job you are applying for.
Don’t forget to use keywords if you can. But keep it real and don’t fudge the information you offer. Remember that your resume is the key to an interview. Once you get an interview, recruiters are going to want more detail in terms of your skills, abilities, and achievements.
If you have limited experience, include internships and/or relevant volunteer work.
Sample Work Experience
Confluence Health, WA
Laboratory Assistant II, 2020 – 2021
Responsible for data entry and laboratory assistant duties. Accurately handled and processed all lab specimens and ensured specimen integrity by sticking strictly to lab procedures.
- Prepared laboratory specimens for designated departments and locations before laboratory analysis and testing. Correctly identified proper tubes, containers, transport media, and ensure the correct storage temperature for each test type.
- Determined specimen acceptability, consulting with specimen processing supervisor, technologist, or pathologist as needed.
- Prepared all specimens received for testing in designated laboratory departments or locations such as staging of specimens, centrifuge, separate serum, and blood smears.
- Prepared excess specimen samples for storage and resolved and documented problem specimens.
Drexel University, PA
Clinical Laboratory Assistant, 2018 – 2019
Responsible for receiving laboratory specimens including blood and other body fluids. Ensured the correct identity and acceptability of specimens. Entered orders for lab testing in the Information System.
- Responsible for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintenance of all cleanrooms and equipment.
- Processed samples according to all the regulatory and protocol requirements. Complied with all the rules and regulations.
- Assisted in the preparation of laboratory studies, and organization of supplies and reagent inventory.
- Became familiar with the Familiarity with Laboratory Exposure Control Plan that includes the Chemical Hygiene Plan, Hazard Communication Program, and OSHA Blood Borne Pathogen Standard.
- Applied standard precautions to all work practices and was able to deal with chemical or biological spills that occurred 3 times.
Sentara Healthcare, VA
Clinical Lab Assistant, 2016 – 2017
Worked a full-time day shift as a clinical lab assistant at the Sentara Princess Anne Hospital providing point-of-entry for all specimens coming into the laboratory.
- Supported technical areas of the laboratory. Labeled, processed, and distributed patient specimens for testing.
- Responsible for registration and test data entry. Monitored supply levels in the specimen processing area.
- Operated and maintained laboratory equipment.
- Responsible for both internal and external customer inquiry and problem resolution. Commended for my ability to reach a resolution quickly.
- Experienced frequent interaction with hospitals, nursing facilities, and physician office staff.
Lab assistant education
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), laboratory scientists and technologists are usually expected to have a bachelor’s degree in medical technology, life sciences, or another science-related subject.
Technicians usually need an associate’s degree or at least a postsecondary certificate. A certificate can be achieved within a year while an associate’s degree will take two or three years to complete.
We sampled scores of job postings for laboratory assistants and found that very few required more than a high school diploma.
We spotted a few jobs that preferred (rather required) candidates with an associate’s degree. In rare instances, employers seem to be happy to employ people without experience as long as they have a degree.
Generally, lab assistants are trained on the job. However, we noticed that quite a large percentage of jobs required or preferred applicants who were certified or willing to study for certification. We will discuss certifications further on.
When we sampled lab assistant resumes, we found that a large percentage of applicants had postsecondary certificates, mostly after studying clinical lab assistant programs at accredited schools.
A much smaller percentage had associate’s degrees mostly from community colleges that offer specialized lab assistant classes.
Arizona Medical Training Institute
Associate’s Degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), 2016 – 2018
Clinical Laboratory Assistant (CLA), 2017
- Qualified to sit for the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) national certification exam.
- Also completed the Phlebotomy Technician Certificate.
Since most of what lab assistants need to know is taught during formal programs or learned on-the-job, any courses you are likely to take will relate to certifications or continuing education.
For instance, American Medical Technologists (AMT) has resources, including test preparation materials, available to lab assistance and medical technologists seeking certification.
The American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) offers several online certificate programs that support ongoing learning. They also have courses for members who are recertifying.
American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) has all sorts of courses for its members. Some carry continuing education credits while others don’t.
- Study course for CMLA
- Laboratory Safety and Infection Control (ASCLS)
While many lab assistant jobs don’t require certifications or licensure, when we sampled job postings and resumes, we found that it isn’t uncommon for employers to call for certifications.
The most common certification is the Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant (CMLA) which is offered by AMT. A CMLA qualifies candidates for licensure, which is required by some U.S. states.
If you are planning to get AMT certified make sure that the qualification you get will enable you to do so. Also bear in mind that you will need to have completed at least 1,040 hours of laboratory technology work in the past three years.
Some clinical lab assistant programs, like the Edmonds College program mentioned above, qualify you to sit the ASCP Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) national certification exam.
The ASCP also offers certification to phlebotomy (PBT) technicians who deal with blood samples. Sometimes employers state that candidates will be expected to get PBT certification within a specified period.
The ASCLS offers Clinical Laboratory Assistant (CLA) certification which you need a high school diploma to write.
The National Healthcare Workers Association (NHCWA) offers certification to graduates from allied health vocational training programs. You also need to have worked in the field for at least a year. The certification is Nationally Certified Multi-Skilled Medical Laboratory Assistant (NCMSMLA).
- CMLA (AMT)
- MLA (ASCP)
- PBT (ASCP)
- CLA (ASCLS)
- NCMSMLA (NHCWA)
Complete lab assistant resume sample
When we sampled job postings we singled out the ad below for several reasons. Even though it is a job that doesn’t call for a qualification higher than a high school diploma, it requires certification, competency, and commitment.
As we pointed out earlier, a job doing COVID-19 testing could open doors to jobs working in labs that test for other infectious diseases, even though a more highly qualified lab technician would normally be required.
We are going to show you how to tailor a resume to the job post. It will help you even if you have no desire to work in a coronavirus-related environment.
The job description explains the scope of the job and the fact that Genesis Healthcare will provide training regarding infection control and prevention.
They reassure applicants that they have all the personal protection equipment (PPE) needed to keep the staff safe from possible infection.
Even though they only require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent, certification is required. So is competency in lab skills and handling of specimens. This means that applicants must have some experience.
Dedicated and enthusiastic lab assistant with two years of full-time experience. Has worked with software-driven instruments for testing. Eager to play a role in combating the scourge of COVID-19. Fit and healthy.
Computer skills | Lab work – specimens, testing, reporting | Inventory | Labeling, transportation, processing of specimens | Teamwork | Communication | Accurate with attention to detail | Enthusiastic | Reliable | Ethical
Hunterdon Healthcare System, NJ
Lab Assistant, 2019 – 2020
Primarily responsible for assisting the professional technical staff, including the medical lab scientists and technicians in the laboratory. Worked under the direct supervision of lab staff members and the general supervisor.
- Prepared specimens, reagents, and other items including specimens to be sent to reference labs.
- Restocked supplies regularly, when required.
- Performed waived level testing.
- Documented all corrective actions taken when test systems deviated from the laboratory’s established performance specifications.
CUNY Hunter College, NY
Lab Assistant Volunteer, 2017
Volunteered at CUNY Hunter College for three months after graduating as a lab assistant in mid-2017. Helped first-year students in the basic procedures required to work successfully as a lab assistant.
- Worked with a group of 12 students guiding them and acting as a mentor with two students per session.
- Assisted with performing calculations and using laboratory instrumentation.
- Offered recommendations to instructors for modifying experimental procedures, based on observations of students working. Most were instituted.
- Took active steps to ensure the safety of new students by monitoring student activities. Reported to the teaching staff.
- Undertook some office work involving LIS computer skills. Connected with customers regularly.
Brabery Science, Inc, NY
Lab Assistant Intern, 2016 (3 months)
Conducted dozens of laboratory analyses and experimented daily using processes to support product development for the company’s beta chemistry team.
- Conducted bench-scale lab experiments that produced process data on chemical synthesis reactions under supervision.
- Recorded and communicated unexpected differences in test results. There were about 20 in total.
- Provided in-depth data analysis and a detailed summary of work using statistics and design of experiments.
- Kept a well-documented electronic lab notebook and had it co-signed every two weeks. This was marked at the end of the internship and earned 98%.
- CMLA (AMT)
- CLA (ASCLS)
Associate’s Degree in Clinical Laboratory Science, 2015 – 2017
- Laboratory Safety and Infection Control (ASCLS), December 2020
Lab assistant jobs can sometimes seem mundane, but there are plenty of challenges and career opportunities. When you seize an opportunity and apply for a new job, you need to spend time ensuring that your resume puts you in the best possible light.
- You don’t need more than a high school diploma to get a job as a lab assistant, but many people working in the position have diplomas and even degrees.
- A fairly large number of jobs demand some sort of certification. Even if they don’t, you’re likely to stand a better chance of getting a good job if you are certified.
- An objective or career summary is optional, but it’s a good place to use keywords that will catch the eye of recruiters and/or an automated tracking system. If you include one, keep it short and relevant and show how you will add value to the job.
Tips from Experts
- “You should always start a medical laboratory assistant resume with a summary section. This replaces the out-of-date resume objective and outlines the most impressive parts of your resume for easy recall by your potential employer. Remember that summaries are short and consist of pithy sentence fragments!” – Larry Job, specialist recruiter
- “You’ve got about six seconds to get your lab assistant resume noticed. So you have five seconds to make sure that you get my attention. I look at the top half of the first page of the resume. I don’t read it. Then I look for the companies you have worked for. Then I look at the second page, all at once. The information you have there will tell me whether I want to read more. You have to show me how you can add value right at the top of your resume.“ – Andrew LaCivita, Career Coach and former recruiter, Milewalk Academy
- “The ASCP Board of Certification (BOC) affirms that an individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to perform the essential task in the medical laboratory. My certification and involvement with the BOC have enhanced not only my professional career but also enriched my life in many other ways.” – Karen A. Brown, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Whether you have a formal qualification and/or experience as a lab assistant or not, a well-crafted resume is the key to getting an interview for the job you are applying for.
Use the tips and advice we have provided and concentrate on using keywords throughout the document if and when you can. Remember that your resume is a marketing tool to sell you as the best candidate for the job!