Medical Laboratory Scientist

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Medical laboratory scientists perform laboratory tests on blood, other body fluids and tissue samples which provide information to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. FutureGrowthModerate

They test samples for the presence of disease and potential causes, which may include bacteria, viruses or parasites. They may also run tests to determine the chemical composition of the sample and concentrations of naturally occurring components, such as testing blood to determine a blood group and the concentrations of red and white blood cells. The results of these tests can be used to assist general practitioners and other medical specialists to effectively treat and prevent disease.

Usually works with and supervises, Medical Laboratory Technicians.


at work
(Source: University of Delaware)

ANZSCO description: Conducts medical laboratory tests to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.  

Alternative names: Biomedical Scientist, Hospital Scientist, Medical Scientific Officer, Medical Scientist; IVF Embryologist

Specialisations: Blood Transfusion, Clinical Biochemistry, Cytology, Haematology, Histopathology, Immunology, Medical Microbiology, Virology

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A medical scientist needs:

  • good communication skills
  • Active listening skills
  • Excellent knowledge of science
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Use of logic and reasoning to solve complex problems
  • the ability to organise and prioritise work
  • the ability to make clear and precise observations
  • good problem solving ability
  • to work well under pressure

Duties and Tasks

  • Advising medical professionals on the results of tests and offering suggestions for diagnosis and treatment

  • preparing tissue sections for microscopic examination

  • examining and analysing samples to study the effects of microbial infections

  • analysing samples of body tissue and fluids to develop techniques to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases

  • setting up the steps and rules of laboratory medical testing

  • maintaining laboratory quality assurance and safety standards

  • preparing scientific papers and reports

  • Analysing samples for consistency, makeup, and irregularities

  • Maintaining laboratory equipment and making minor repairs as needed

  • Operating microscopes and other equipment to test and examine samples

  • Receiving tissue and other samples for experimentation and analysis

  • Working with occupational health authorities to ensure laboratories are kept up to code and established regulations 

Working Conditions

Medical scientists work in laboratories, which may operate independently or can be attached to hospitals. There may also be limited opportunities to work in specialist veterinary diagnostic laboratories. They work closely with blood and infectious specimens, so must take care to follow strict safety procedures to minimise the risk of contamination.

The hours of work can vary, depending on the size of the laboratory. Medical scientists working in larger laboratories, particularly those attached to hospitals, may be required to work shifts, which include working nights, weekends and public holidays. Those working in small laboratories may work more regular business hours, though they may occasionally work overtime to finish running time-sensitive tests. Most medical scientists will also be required to be on-call in case of emergencies.

Depending on your specialisation as a Medical Scientist, you may be required to travel to find employment in your specific field.  

Tools and Technologies

Medical scientists use a range of highly specialised machines to carry out a range of tests.

They may also use traditional laboratory equipment, such as microscopes, slides and materials to grow specimen cultures.

Protective clothing, such as lab coats, safety glasses and gloves, must be worn to reduce the risk of infection and the contamination of samples. Medical scientists use computers to compile reports of their findings and keep records of any tests carried out. Medical scientists who are on-call will also be required to carry a mobile phone so that they can be contacted at any time.

Education and Training

To become a medical laboratory scientist you usually need to complete a degree majoring in laboratory medicine, medical science or biomedical science.  

The primary qualification for Medical Laboratory Scientists in Australia is a three or four year degree in medical laboratory science/laboratory medicine, accredited by AIMS. Graduates of these degrees are classified as Medical Laboratory Scientists and eligible for Graduate membership of AIMS.


Did You Know? 

Cytology is the exam of a single cell type, as often found in fluid specimens. It's mainly used to diagnose or screen for cancer. It's also used to screen for fetal abnormalities, for pap smears, to diagnose infectious organisms, and in other screening and diagnostic areas.

The cells to be examined may be taken through the following methods:

Scraping or brushing the tissue surface, such as during a pap smear

Collecting body fluids, such for urine or respiratory phlegm

Fine-needle aspirations. This is removing cells by drawing them through a fine needle, such as abdominal fluid in ascites, pleural fluid from the lungs, or cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal canal.

Other types of tissue biopsy

Individual cells

Cytology is different from histology. Cytology generally involves looking at a single cell type. Histology is the exam of an entire block of tissue.
(Source: Hopkins Medicine)

Medical Laboratory Scientist

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