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Occupational Profile

Medical Laboratory Assistant

Medical laboratory assistants perform clerical and pre-analytical tasks such as data entry and blood collection in medical laboratories.

  • Avg. Salary $62,183.00
  • Avg. Wage $33.98
  • Minimum Education High school diploma
  • Outlook Up
  • Employed 3,800
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Laboratory Technician

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

N/A
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Medical Laboratory Assistant is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Medical Laboratory Technicians
NOC code: 3212
METHODICAL

Interest in compiling information derived from blood, tissue and other samples collected from patients; and in collecting and receiving tissue samples from patients

OBJECTIVE

Interest in setting up medical laboratory equipment; and in cleaning and maintaining laboratory

innovative

Interest in assisting medical personnel to conduct laboratory tests and sample analyses

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Medical laboratory assistants work under the supervision of pathologists, medical laboratory technologists or combined laboratory and x-ray technologists.

Duties vary from one position to another but, in general, medical laboratory assistants:

  • label and sort tissue samples and specimens
  • load and operate laboratory testing equipment 
  • collect blood samples and body fluids from patients for laboratory testing
  • prepare slides of blood and other fluids for examination under a microscope
  • perform simple tests on body fluids and stool
  • make chemical solutions and stocks of culture media
  • plant specimens to culture bacteria
  • use computers to input and analyse data
  • dispose of hazardous waste
  • sterilize equipment
  • maintain stock levels of laboratory supplies.

They also may perform administrative tasks such as answering telephone calls and keeping records.

Medical laboratory assistants may specialize in working with scientists, medical laboratory technologists or medical professionals in areas such as:

  • biochemistry (studying chemical reactions in the body)
  • cytology (studying the structure and function of cells)
  • hematology (analysing diseases of the blood and blood forming tissues)
  • histopathology (examining the structure of diseased tissue)
  • immunology (examining how the immune system works)
  • microbiology (studying bacteria and viruses).
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Hours of work vary in this occupation. Medical laboratory assistants may work full time, part time or casual relief hours. In research laboratories, they often work standard weekday hours. In diagnostic clinical laboratories, they may work rotating day, evening and night shifts (including weekends and holidays).

Medical laboratory assistants work in laboratory environments where they may spend a considerable amount of time standing or sitting, performing tasks that may be repetitive. They must observe safety precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to infectious body fluids, dangerous chemicals or hazardous radiation.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Medical laboratory assistants need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to follow instructions, pay close attention to detail and take precise readings
  • the ability to work quickly and accurately
  • good finger and manual dexterity to handle specimens and small laboratory equipment
  • normal colour vision
  • good communication and problem solving skills
  • good organizational skills
  • the interpersonal skills required to work well with co-workers and the public.

They should enjoy:

  • taking a methodical approach to their work
  • setting up and maintaining laboratory equipment
  • helping people and assisting medical personnel.
Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Medical laboratory assistants need: 

  • a basic understanding of biological science and medical terminology 
  • a thorough understanding of laboratory safety procedures 
  • basic computer skills and good record keeping skills 
  • the numerical skills required to check test results and do simple calculations 
  • the practical skills required to operate and maintain laboratory equipment.

Employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates who have completed a related post-secondary program.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

ABES (Alberta Business and Educational Services) - Calgary

Lethbridge College

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Thompson Rivers University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification by the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science is voluntary but can be an asset when medical laboratory assistants are looking for employment. Certification requires successful completion of an exam.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Above-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Medical laboratory assistants are employed in:

  • private diagnostic testing laboratories
  • hospitals
  • physician's offices and clinics
  • public and private research institutes. 

Experienced medical laboratory assistants may move into related jobs in industrial process or manufacturing company laboratories, pharmaceutical company laboratories, veterinary laboratories or government science laboratories). Advancement opportunities depend on the assistant's ability, experience and education.

Medical laboratory assistants are classified in the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 3212: Medical laboratory technicians and Pathologists' Assistants. In Alberta, 91% of people employed in this classification work in the Health Care and Social Assistance (PDF) industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 3,800 Albertans are employed in the Medical laboratory technicians occupational group. This group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.4% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 129 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As medical laboratory assistants form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for medical laboratory assistants.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 14, 2016

For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website.

Medical laboratory technicians and pathologists' assistants
NOC code: 3212

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $0.00 $0.00 $27.71 $22.01
Overall $0.00 $0.00 $33.98 $24.78
Top $0.00 $0.00 $44.43 $27.30

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

D: Lowest Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lowest Reliability, represents a CV of more than 33.00% and/or if fewer than 10 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 25% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Public Administration
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Health Care & Social Assistance

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

N/A

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

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2015 Vacancy Rate

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Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
  • Health, Recreation and Human Services
    • Health Care Services
    • Human and Social Services
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) website: www.csmls.org

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Apr 11, 2014. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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