How to Become a Laboratory Manager

Career Guide

To become a laboratory manager (also known as a lab coordinator) you need a combination of having an interest in research, the ability to lead others, industry experience and training, the proper skill set, education, and knowing where to look for a job.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a laboratory manager. We've also included helpful information for a laboratory manager career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Laboratory Manager

Typically, to become a laboratory manager, you first need to obtain a bachelor of science in the appropriate field. For example, those looking to work as a pharmaceutical lab manager should obtain an undergraduate degree in biochemistry or pharmacy.


Possible fields of study for aspiring lab managers may include, but is not limited to: botany, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacy and environmental science. Depending on the employer, you may need to have a graduate degree in the appropriate field in order to supervise the functioning of the lab. 





Experience Needed to Become a Laboratory Manager

It is typically for laboratory managers to progress into their positions from an entry-level or technical position with the laboratory. This route into a managerial position provides candidates with excellent background experience and knowledge with the specific equipment, systems and processes of the laboratory.


Because most lab managers earn the position as a result of their experience and competencies, there are no universal qualifications to become a laboratory manager; each individual employer usually determines the specific qualifications of this role.


However, employers typically expect their lab managers to have a combination of technical and managerial skills, as well as extensive experience in a laboratory setting. 


Success Tip: Gain as much lab experience as you can while you’re a student by volunteering to help professors and other students with their projects!



General Job Description

A laboratory manager, also known as a senior lab technician and laboratory coordinator, is responsible for overseeing the work activities and personnel of a scientific laboratory. Laboratory managers are responsible for organizing and controlling all aspects of a laboratory environment.



Typical Job Duties

• Schedule the work activities of laboratory employees

• Make risk assessments for the laboratory and ensure that the company's Health & Safety policy is adhered to

• Determine when the laboratory needs to be open for students or researchers

• Keep track of all laboratory equipment and materials

• May be required to create and follow a budget

• Act as an interface between management or the client and laboratory staff

• Ensure that any personnel using the laboratory adhere to safety policies and procedures

• Ensure the proper handling, storage and disposal of hazardous materials



Average Salary Level 

The actual wages and salaries of laboratory managers can vary greatly, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education and experience

• The amount of responsibility inherent in their job

• The size and type of their employer

• The industry in which they work

• The region in which they work


Unfortunately, there is no salary data available from government sources for the profession of ‘laboratory manager’. We can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the earnings of workers in closely related occupations.


Salary in Alberta: According to the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the closely related occupational field of “Managers in health care” is $100,705 per year, while those in the “Secondary school teachers” group earn an average of $73,966 per year.


Salary - British Columbia: According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in the “Managers in health care” occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $85,717.

Salary - United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the “Natural Sciences Managers” occupational group is $123,860 per year.





Skills Needed to Succeed as a Laboratory Manager

Just because someone hopes to become a laboratory manager, doesn’t mean they have what it takes to become successful. Below is a list of skills and attributes aspiring laboratory managers will need in order to succeed in their careers.


• Must be able to effectively liaise with lab technicians, as well as internal and external customers

• Must be able to respond quickly to breakdowns in systems or processes

• Need to posses good analytical, problem solving and decision-making skills

• Must maintain a proactive approach to work activities

• Must pay very close attention to details

• Need to posses excellent time management skills

• Must be able to motivate staff and team members

• Must be able to take direction from internal and external customers

• Must be able to clearly and concisely communication instructions

• Need to be able to understand graphs

• Must be able to maintain accurate records and prepare reports

• Need a thorough knowledge of all the equipment and processes used in the laboratory

• Must be able to make rational decisions under pressure



Who Employs Them?

Laboratory managers can be hired by any organization that plans and executes research utilizing laboratory equipment and processes. These employers typically include:


• Government research facilities

• Pharmaceutical companies

• Private research firms

• Universities and colleges



Lab Manager Jobs

Our job board below has current postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to "laboratory manager", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Clinical Technician

Crime Lab Assistant

Forensic Lab Analyst

Genetic Technologist

Medical Laboratory Technologist




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Laboratory Manager.


Occupations in Alberta:Forensic Laboratory Analyst.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 29, 2019.

Leadership & Staffing:The Lab Manager Salary and Budget Survey.” (n.d.). Lab Manager Online Magazine website. Retrieved December 29, 2019.

Explore Careers:Managers in health care.” (July 5, 2018). WorkBC website. Retrieved February 14, 2020.

Career Training:How to Become a Good Lab Manager.” Elizabeth Sandquist (October, 2013). American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology website. Retrieved December 29, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Laboratory Manager

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a laboratory manager can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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