5 Common Laboratory Skills (With Definition and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Various professions may require you to possess strong laboratory skills, such as in the medical or scientific field. As you learn about the various skills, you may find it easier to complete your tasks at work and advance your career goals. Learning the various skills necessary for working in a laboratory can help you improve your skills and may increase your chances of success in the field. In this article, we discuss what these skills are, including examples of them, how to improve them in five steps and how to highlight them during your job search.

What are laboratory skills?

Laboratory skills refer to an individual's ability to perform certain tasks in a laboratory setting. Depending on your scientific field, there are many kinds of lab skills. Examples of this skill may include creating hypotheses, keeping records, dissecting, pipetting, measuring, following safety procedures, molecular cloning and sterilising equipment. Thus, it's important to develop and improve your skills in technical and medical equipment. By determining your scientific field, you can develop skills that can help you succeed in your position.

Related: 19 Fascinating Careers in Science (With Salaries and Duties)

5 examples of laboratory skills

Here are five examples of lab skills you can possess:

1. Research skills

An individual's research skills include the ability to find, organise, analyse and present relevant information about a specific subject. It's helpful to have several soft and technical skills to research effectively. Investigative skills include the ability to make observations, draw inferences, analyse problems and provide solutions. Having strong research skills allows you to increase your problem-solving skills because you're able to research alternative solutions to a challenge. By presenting unique solutions, you can become a highly valuable employee in the company.

Related: Research Skills: Definition, Examples and Importance

2. Analysis and problem-solving skills

Analysis and problem-solving skills are your ability to analyse a challenge or result and apply your problem-solving skills to rectify the situation. These skills are helpful in the laboratory because you're often testing hypotheses and examining the results. If a challenge arises in the lab, you can use these skills to find a solution quickly. This gives you more time to complete your tasks. Additionally, as you're analysing the results of your tests or your colleagues' tests, you may write a report detailing the outcome and challenges that you encountered.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills Examples (With Steps to Develop Them)

3. Sterilisation skills

Sterilisation skills are your ability to maintain a clean and sterile workplace. When you properly sterilise all your equipment before and after use, you're decreasing the likelihood of cross-contamination that may negatively affect your experiment and results. These skills also help to safeguard your health and the health of those around you.

4. Communication skills

Communication skills are important in a lab because you may work with different types of equipment or hazardous materials around other individuals. You may communicate verbally with your lab team members to inform them about a test you're conducting or if certain equipment requires sterilisation before its next use. With your written communication skills, you can prepare reports that are easy to understand.

Related: What Is Interpersonal Communication and Why Is It Important?

5. Lab safety skills

Lab safety skills are for the physical safety of you and those working around you. These safety protocols are often similar in theme but may vary depending on the organisation that employs you. It's important to adhere to these rules and practise safety skills to be considerate of other staff members. Here are some examples of how to practise lab safety skills:

  • inform others of hot liquid or items

  • tie back your hair and roll up your sleeves when working with an open flame

  • carry hot-temperature items with tongs or hot pads

How to improve your skills in 5 steps

Here are some ways you can improve your skills in the laboratory:

1. Ask for feedback

To help you improve your skills in the laboratory, ask for feedback from your colleagues and managers that you work with daily. Doing this can help you determine the skills you want to improve. They may also give you some insightful tips on how to do specific experiments or teach you some valuable techniques related to your area of study.

2. Take inventory of your skills and practise them

You may find it helpful to take an inventory of the skills that you already possess. Notice the tasks you complete quickly and enjoy doing throughout your day. It's also important to identify the tasks you find challenging to complete because you can focus on strengthening your skills in that area and become more successful in your role. Once you've determined the skills to improve on, you can practise them during your workday or free time. You may also enrol in a course to gain more knowledge on that particular subject.

3. Review and adhere to safety regulations

It's important to follow the safety regulations strictly by being methodical and careful. The safety regulations may vary depending on the field you're working in, the employer and the specific lab protocols they use. It's essential to find out all the regulations on the first day of your work. If your supervisor doesn't share these with you, request them. The employer may also inform you of any updates in the rules and regulations at company meetings or through emails.

These policies may also help you know what not to do, even if you feel they're safe to complete. If you're not sure, ask your colleagues or managers to be safe before committing to an action.

4. Maintain a schedule

Consider creating and maintaining a schedule to make improvements. You can adhere to the schedule you created to finish your work efficiently and effectively. This allows you to strengthen your time management and organisational skills.

5. Find a mentor in your field

It may be beneficial to find a mentor in your field who has the skill set you seek to possess. Ask the professional if they wouldn't mind being your mentor and share why you think this relationship would be beneficial for both of you. Establish times to meet either daily, weekly or monthly to discuss your field, learn about the skills you can improve on and receive some helpful advice.

Ways to highlight your laboratory skills

Employers may look out for lab skills in candidates as they may be essential for the job. Here are a few ways you can showcase your laboratory skills during your job search:

On your resume

When you're creating your resume, include a section titled Laboratory skills and list your skills in a bulleted list format. This allows hiring managers to easily locate this skill set on your resume to determine if you're suitable for the role. You can also highlight your skills in the work experience and education sections. After you state where you worked, your title, educational institution and the degree you earned, you can share your skills in another bulleted list. For example, you can share that you were a part-time lab research assistant at your university or had a temporary vacation job in a laboratory.

In your cover letter

In your cover letter, you can discuss one or two of your skills in more detail. You may either expand on the skills you've listed on your resume or you can choose skills you haven't shared yet. While you can use skills included on your resume, it may be more effective to include different ones to show that you have a diverse skill set. By doing this, you can differentiate yourself from other professionals who may have a similar background to yours.

To highlight these skills in your cover letter, give specific examples about how you've used those skills during your studies or at work and how it's prepared you for this role.

During a job interview

During an interview, the hiring manager may ask you verbatim what your skills are and how you've used them in your past. Even if they don't ask you this type of question directly, you can highlight your skills when speaking about your previous roles or your educational background. Additionally, you may also share your skills with them if they ask behavioural or situational interview questions. Be sure to share how your experience and skills can help benefit their company and reach their goals.

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