Medical Laboratory Scientist
Kaipūtaiao Taiwhanga Rongoā
Medical laboratory scientists carry out laboratory tests on blood, tissues and other samples taken from patients.
Trainee medical laboratory scientists start on
$47K per year
Experienced medical laboratory scientists usually earn
$52K-$97K per year
Source: MLWU, DHB, NZBS MECA and MLWU and SCL Collective Agreement, 2017.
Pay for medical laboratory scientists varies depending on experience and level of responsibility.
- Trainee medical laboratory scientists start on $47,000 a year.
- Medical laboratory scientists with one to six years' experience usually earn between $52,000 and $64,000.
- Senior scientists with management responsibilities and particular experience and skills can earn up to $97,000.
Sources: Medical Laboratory Workers Union and District Health Boards and New Zealand Blood Service, 'Multi-Employer Collective Agreement to September 2019', 2017; Medical Laboratory Workers Union and Southern Community Laboratories, 'Collective Agreement to 30 June 2018', 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Medical laboratory scientists may do some or all of the following:
- test and study blood, tissue and fluid samples
- prepare samples for pathologists
- evaluate test results and communicate these to doctors
- test, set up, use and maintain laboratory equipment
- maintain laboratory quality assurance and safety standards
- supervise and teach other staff such as medical laboratory technicians
- develop new methods and equipment for laboratory testing.
Skills and knowledge
Medical laboratory scientists need to have:
- a good knowledge of chemistry, biology, physiology and maths
- practical skills for operating specialised machines and scientific equipment
- an understanding of laboratory safety procedures and the ability to follow them.
Medical laboratory scientists:
- work both day and night shifts, and may work weekends or be on call
- usually work in community, hospital, commercial or veterinary diagnostic laboratories.
What's the job really like?
Medical Laboratory Scientist
Clavelly Lilburn went to university to become a forensic scientist, solving murder mysteries. But she realised that there were few jobs and switched to medical laboratory science.
How would you describe your job to a child?
"I help the doctor figure out what’s wrong with sick people. I work with poos, wees, blood, body parts. It sounds disgusting, but I find it fascinating.
What stands out from your first week at work?
"In histology – that's where they cut up the body tissue – you get the moles that get cut off, colons, an eyeball, once, a whole breast. I was just staring at the pottles."
What's the most important part of your job?
"We have a lot of responsibility. Say our tests showed a patient had a very low haemoglobin [oxygen-carrying protein in the blood] level. That means they could have loss of organ function, so before their whole body breaks down, we contact their doctor, so they can get hold of the patient and get them to hospital."
To become a medical laboratory scientist you need to:
- have a Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science or a Graduate Diploma in Science
- work for at least six months under supervision
- be registered with the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand
- hold a current Annual Practising Certificate.
Graduate Diploma in Science an entry for technicians
Medical laboratory technicians can do a Graduate Diploma in Science or a Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science to become a medical laboratory scientist if they:
- are a registered medical laboratory technician
- have worked for at least a year in a New Zealand Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
- have a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Biomedical Science.
- Auckland University of Technology (AUT) website - information about the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science
- Auckland University of Technology (AUT) website - information about the Graduate Diploma in Science
- Massey University website - information about the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science
- University of Otago website - information about the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science
- University of Otago website - information about the Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, maths and physics.
Medical laboratory scientists need to be:
- methodical and accurate
- careful and safety-conscious
- enquiring and adaptable
- good at problem solving
- responsible and reliable
- good at communicating.
Useful experience for medical laboratory scientists includes:
- work in a medical laboratory
- any scientific work
- any health industry work.
Medical laboratory scientists need to be registered with the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.
- Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand website - information on medical laboratory scientist registration
- Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand website - information on Annual Practising Certificates
Find out more about training
- Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand
- (04) 801 6250 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.mscouncil.org.nz
- NZ Institute of Medical Laboratory Science (NZIMLS)
- (03) 313 4761 - email@example.com - www.nzimls.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of finding work as a medical laboratory scientist are good due to:
- an ageing population with more health problems that require tests
- a shortage of workers in small towns
- a high turnover of staff means vacancies come up regularly
- private tests are in demand, such as home DNA tests that need analysing.
Medical laboratory scientist appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled medical laboratory scientists to work in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 1,773 medical laboratory scientists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Chances better for highly skilled scientists
Chances of finding work are best for medical laboratory scientists who have management skills or specialised skills in laboratory technology, and for those willing to work in small towns.
Technology may reduce vacancies
New testing technology may reduce the number of medical laboratory scientist vacancies, however scientists with strong analytical skills will still be needed.
More work in private laboratories and hospitals
Most medical laboratory scientists are employed by hospitals and private laboratory services.
Other employers include:
- scientific research laboratories
- the New Zealand Blood Service
- veterinary clinics.
- Auckland University of Technology, 'A Future in Medical Laboratory Science', August 2016, (www.aut.ac.nz).
- Health Careers website, accessed June 2017, (www.healthcareers.org.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Health, 'Health of the Health Workforce 2015', 16 February 2016, (www.health.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Strategic Workforce Services, 'Workforce Assessment Report DHB Medical Laboratory Workforce', June 2016, (www.centraltas.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Medical laboratory scientists may progress into managerial or supervisory roles in a laboratory. With further postgraduate study, they may do research into particular disciplines and scientific methods, or become university lecturers. They may also move into other areas such as teaching, animal health, the food industry, or working for commercial science companies.
Medical laboratory scientists usually specialise in two or more of the following disciplines:
- Clinical Biochemist
- Clinical biochemists analyse samples of blood, urine, faeces and tissue for diseases such as diabetes and renal failure.
- Clinical Immunologist
- Clinical immunologists study the body's immune system to test for diseases such as allergies and HIV infection.
- Cytogeneticists investigate genetic disease and how chromosomes are affected by disease.
- Haematologists analyse blood samples for diseases such as anaemia and cancer.
- Histologists prepare tissue samples for investigation by a pathologist.
- Medical Cytologist
- Medical cytologists test cell samples for cancer.
- Medical Microbiologist
- Medical microbiologists detect, cultivate and test bacteria and fungi.
- Transfusion Scientist
- Transfusion scientists prepare blood and blood products for transfusion.
Last updated 16 September 2020