Do the inner workings of a laboratory fascinate you? Are you thinking of pursuing a degree in laboratory science? Well, you’re at the right place. Judging by its name, laboratory science can seem like a daunting and difficult degree. But for the right person, it can be one of the most interesting and rewarding courses to take on. It plays a crucial role in medicine, chemistry, and many other sectors, so finding a job will be a piece of cake.
But before you take on this unique and under-appreciated subject, there’s a lot you should know about it. Here’s exactly what a laboratory science degree entails, including its educational requirements, core areas of study, and career opportunities.
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What is Laboratory Science?
Laboratory science is exactly what it sounds like: studying and discovering things in a controlled environment. Its scope is pretty wide, ranging from biology to chemistry to physics. To really understand what laboratory science is, you need to learn its key components and principles.
Of course, conducting experiments is one of the most important aspects, where you can design and carry out tests to gather crucial data. But it’s a precise art, demanding specific methods and procedures for accuracy.
Another important principle is analyzing data. After hours of gathering precise data, you need to make sense of your findings. That means you’ll be crunching numbers, drawing conclusions, and identifying patterns.
That’s just a portion of what you can expect when getting a degree in laboratory science. Essentially, it’s all about exploring, experimenting, and discovering scientific matter in a controlled environment. If you’re interested in a hands-on and exciting STEM field to apply your curiosity, laboratory science is just what you need.
Educational Requirements for Laboratory Science Degree
Like any other subject, you need to meet certain educational requirements to pursue a laboratory science degree. The requirements for undergraduate programs and graduate programs are different.
Let’s start with the educational requirements you need to meet to pursue an undergraduate program for a laboratory science degree. Of course, the college or university you apply to will have its own admission requirements. In most cases, that includes a high school diploma or equivalent, along with your SAT or ACT scores. You might even need to provide documents of your performance in science-related subjects.
After getting accepted into the university of your choice, the next step is to consider your core coursework. Biology, physics, math, and chemistry are a few of the main courses you can expect. These will be the basis of your laboratory science education, so take your time and choose wisely.
Once you’ve chosen the core coursework, you can move on to your elective courses and focus on your specific interests. A few examples of electives include environmental science, organic chemistry, and molecular biology. Take your time to pick your electives so you can explore different aspects of laboratory science.
If you’re ready to take your laboratory science education to the next level, it’s time to pursue a graduate program. Since graduate programs offer research opportunities, the criteria for admission are completely different. First and foremost, you need a bachelor’s degree in laboratory science to pursue a graduate program.
In some cases, you may need to provide proof of specific coursework or a minimum GPA to get in. You may also need to take standardized exams like the GRE, offer a statement of purpose, or provide recommendation letters.
Once you’re accepted, you can explore advanced coursework like molecular biology, biochemistry, analytical techniques, or scientific research methodologies. You’ll also get research opportunities by joining research groups or working with faculty members.
Core Areas of Study in Laboratory Science Degree
As we mentioned, the core coursework for laboratory science includes biology, chemistry, and physics. Let’s break down what you can expect from each subject while pursuing a laboratory science degree.
In laboratory science, biology provides the basis for the intricate workings of living organisms, opening doors for healthcare, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical careers. You can expect molecular biology, microbiology, and genetics courses.
In your cellular and molecular biology class, you’ll delve into intricate topics like cell physiology and biochemistry. Meanwhile, your microbiology course will discuss bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi. Lastly, genetics investigates trait inheritance, gene function, and gene variation in biological diversity.
There’s no doubt that chemistry is one of the core aspects of laboratory science. The three subfields of chemistry you can expect in this degree include organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and physical chemistry.
Organic chemistry explores all carbon-based compounds, along with their structure, properties, reactions, and synthesis. On the other hand, you can expect chromatography, spectroscopy, and electrochemical methods in analytical chemistry. Lastly, physical chemistry focuses on subjects like thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and chemical kinetics.
Although you may also see math courses, laboratory science programs are incomplete without physics courses. These classes are typically broken down into optics and photonics, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism.
Optics and photonics have applications in fields like telecommunications, imaging technology, and laser technology. Meanwhile, quantum mechanics investigates the behavior of matter at atomic and subatomic levels. Lastly, electromagnetism deals with the study of electromagnetic fields, their interactions with charged particles, and the principles of electricity and magnetism.
Career Opportunities for Laboratory Science Graduates
Of course, you can’t make the decision to pursue a degree without knowing the career opportunities first. Luckily, laboratory science opens endless doors for career opportunities in health and medical organizations, academic research, the private sector, and the public sector. Let’s break each one down.
Academic research is one of the main career opportunities you’ll get after completing your laboratory science degree. Even in this sector, there are various potential paths you can consider, like academic researcher, postdoctoral fellow, grant writer, and R&D roles.
As an academic researcher, you’ll have the chance to work in universities, research institutions, or government agencies. You’ll be responsible for designing experiments, collecting data, analyzing results, and contributing to scientific publications.
Meanwhile, a postdoctoral fellowship will allow you to work closely with experienced researchers in your field. It lasts a few years and helps you refine your expertise. Lastly, you can explore research and development roles in pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, and other scientific organizations. You’ll get to design and conduct experiments, analyze data, and contribute to scientific discoveries.
Industry and Private Sector
In the private sector, there is a myriad of roles for you to explore as a laboratory science graduate. For example, you could be a laboratory technician, conducting experiments, operating equipment, and assisting scientists and researchers. In this role, you’ll learn around $60k a year.
You could also be a quality control analyst. Quality control analysts test products and materials in pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, and manufacturing industries. Another option is a career as a research scientist, where you’ll get the chance to design and execute experiments, analyze data, and collaborate with cross-functional teams to achieve company goals.
If medicine is your specialty, go for a Clinical Research Associate role. These associates are responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with study protocols, collecting and analyzing data, and collaborating with clinical investigators and research teams.
The list of opportunities for a laboratory science graduate in the private sector is endless. It includes roles like product development specialist, environmental specialist, and forensic scientist.
Government and Public Sector
Laboratory science graduates have excellent opportunities to work in government jobs. The public sector will greatly appreciate your expertise in public health, food safety, and environmental health. That should give you an idea of what sorts of jobs to expect in the public sector!
Most obviously, you can get a job as a public health officer, where you’ll study disease patterns, conduct epidemiological investigations, and contribute to public health initiatives. The average pay for this role s $86k per year.
In a similar context, you could also be an environmental health officer. You’ll be responsible for monitoring and enforcing regulations related to public health and environmental safety. This degree also opens doors for food safety officer positions. In this role, you’ll conduct inspections, sample food products, and help maintain food safety and quality.
Other job opportunities for laboratory scientists in the public sector include research analysis, government science, wildlife biology, forensic science, and science policy analysis. There’s no doubt that there’s a world of chances in this sector.
Healthcare and Medical
Lastly and pretty obviously, a laboratory science degree has endless scope in the healthcare and medical field. You can be a medical laboratory technologist performing diagnostic tests on patient samples. Or, you could opt for a medical research scientist role, conducting studies to improve understanding of diseases.
Other roles include molecular biologists, who work on genetic testing and personalized medicine, and cytotechnologists, who analyze cellular samples for signs of cancer. Laboratory science degrees will also allow you to become a clinical biochemist, immunology specialist, medical genetics counselor, or clinical trial coordinator.
If you’re interested in the world of scientific exploration and discovery, a laboratory science degree might just be your cup of tea. It opens doors for endless career opportunities in academic research, healthcare organizations, the public sector, and the private sector. Now that you know exactly what this degree entails, you can decide if it’s the best course of action for you.