6 answers

What are the challenges of being a medical laboratory scientist?

Asked Granger, Indiana

This is my major. I want to learn more about this field.

6 answers

Cindy’s Answer


The laboratory science field changes very rapidly. It can be challenging to remain up to date in all areas of the laboratory. Many laboratory scientists choose one or two areas of lab to work in and concentrate on remaining proficient in those areas.

For me, I stayed up to date in chemistry, hematology and blood bank. I am not as proficient in microbiology, flow cytometry or molecular.

Cindy recommends the following next steps:

  • See if you can volunteer in a hospital or research lab while you are on summer break. Ask if you can rotate through all areas of the lab. While there, ask lots of questions. You might find some areas of the lab more interesting than others.

Dennis’s Answer


Medical Laboratory scientists covers many different areas. Your days 

will be spent in a lab and office environment and you will be 

surprised to learn that you will spend a fair amount of your day 

writing and reading, not working at your lab bench.

In medical areas, you could be working with infectious agents that 

cause disease and these require special precautions,training and 

equipment to handle. Some people are not comfortable with this (I 

always enjoyed it)

You will have exposure to a variety of chemicals, but you should have 

adequate protection and training to handle them as well.

The best thing about such work is that it is never boring! You will be 

working on something different at frequent intervals or have the 

opportunity to do so. This is true whether you are working in 

research, a testing laboratory or a production laboratory.

Good luck with your career! Whatever you do, always do your best and 

give your all. It is easy to criticize, but it not so easy to do. Be 

a doer.

Dennis Ray Schneider, Ph.D.

Beth’s Answer


Hello, challenges include; exposure to blood borne pathogens, walking/standing for long hours, kneeling/bending, and a lot of communication with fellow scientists. Depending on the type of environment you work, not everyone is trained to do the same thing so you may be in charge of running a lot of tests. It’s also handy to familiarize yourself with Excel and Word as your results will need to be documented in real time.

Beth recommends the following next steps:

  • I recommend determining if you’d like to work for a hospital or other medical facility as your responsibilities may be different.
  • I would then suggest reaching out to them in search of a shadowing opportunity or internship.

Matthew’s Answer

Updated Houston, Texas

1) understand what you are doing. If you get that wrong, somebody could die or suffer.

2) constantly improve, it is easy to get complacent after a few years. Figuring how to balance work and personal life (e.g. raising a family, paying bills, having joy, & me/down time) can be challenging.

3) develop a respectful thick skin, some senior people with advanced degrees & high positions can be difficult to work with having short fuses; and there is nothing you do other than be the best.

4) stay on top of your job field, know what the market is paying for your skills.

Matthew recommends the following next steps:

  • get the basics down: math, chemistry, biology, physics, reading, writing and speaking.
  • decide clinical or research. Try to get a tour of each. It is a real paying job, but will you burn out and regret being there?
  • Meet the people. What are the professional societies? What opportunities do they offer young people to get in the business?
  • What are the journals? Does reading them interest you?

Nicholas’s Answer

Updated San Antonio, Texas

Hi, challenges include exposure to bodily fluids and possible diseases along with extreme cold (-320F liquid nitrogen). Of course standing and walking 4 to 5 hours daily, as well as, bending, stooping, and lifting 15 to 25 lbs.

Nicholas recommends the following next steps:

  • I’d suggest a short internship because you might find the work interesting.

Chesie’s Answer


Your ability to grow within the lab without going back to school for more certifications.

Usually promotions are based upon longevity within the company and because laboratories have lots of staff above 50, they are often given preference.

Chesie recommends the following next steps:

  • Work as a medical lab scientist to gain experience within the field for at least 4 years.
  • Consider pursuing an online MBA course to enable you get lab management positions as they become available either within your company or elsewhere.
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