Medical laboratory technicians and pathologists' assistants (NOC 3212)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Medical laboratory technicians:

  • conduct routine medical laboratory tests
  • set up, clean and maintain medical laboratory equipment
  • work for medical laboratories in hospitals, clinics, research facilities, post-secondary educational institutions and government research laboratories.

Pathologists' assistants:

  • assist at autopsies and examinations of surgical specimens
  • perform autopsies under a pathologist's supervision
  • work for hospitals and universities.
Common job titles
  • assistant, medical lab / pathology
  • attendant, morgue
  • epidemiology
  • medical laboratory aide
  • phlebotomist
  • supervisor, morgue attendant


Medical laboratory assistants perform some or all of the following duties:

  • collect blood or other samples from patients
  • log patient samples and prepare them for testing
  • set up medical laboratory equipment
  • Conduct routine laboratory tests and sample analyses
  • Perform quality assurance of testing techniques
  • clean and maintain medical laboratory and medical laboratory equipment

Pathologists' assistants perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Prepare for autopsies by obtaining patients' medical records and arranging for radiographic examinations
  • Assist with or perform autopsies and surgical specimen examinations under pathologists' supervision
  • Dissect, examine, weigh and photograph organs and specimens, collect tissue samples for chemical analysis and record findings
  • Discard specimens according to established safety procedures
  • Clean and maintain instruments, equipment and supplies • May prepare bodies for release to funeral homes following completion of autopsies
  • May supervise and train junior resident pathologists and morgue attendants.

Work environment

Most medical laboratory assistants work 35–40 hours per week. Those working in hospitals often rotate shifts to work on weekends and holidays. Some on-call work may also be required to cover emergencies.

Workers in this occupational group generally work in clean, bright and well-ventilated medical laboratories, clinics or offices in hospitals. During their work day, they may perform a variety of tests or they may repeat the same tests throughout the day. They use solutions and reagents for their work, which may cause unpleasant odours. These workers may also have to work with infectious patients, samples or hazardous chemicals, so safety precautions are taken to avoid those risks.

Insights from industry

British Columbia's population is growing and aging, which is increasing the demand for health-care services and professionals. With a large number of workers expected to retire over the next few years, the need for medical laboratory assistants will increase.

Additional openings will also come available due to worker turnover. Many workers are attracted to this occupation as a step towards more skilled positions. For assistants who have taken specialized training, turnover rates are generally low.

The introduction of simplified tests for routine diagnoses allows doctors and, in some cases patients, to carry out some tests themselves. This has somewhat reduced the number of medical laboratory assistants needed to do the same volume of work. However, the development of new diagnostic tests that are now requested by physicians has balanced this effect and has increased job opportunities.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Graduates may work in a number of different settings, such as private laboratories, community health clinics, public health facilities, university research labs, biotechnology companies and specialty labs.

With additional education and experience, workers may progress to supervisory or management positions or they may choose to teach.

Additional resources