Biological Technicians

Also Known As
Biological Technologists Bio Technologists

The following alternate titles reflect the various areas in which biological techs can specialize:

  • agricultural techs
  • agrology techs
  • aquaculture techs
  • bacteriological techs
  • biological laboratory techs
  • biotechnology techs
  • botanical techs
  • fish hatchery techs
  • fisheries techs
  • food bacteriological techs
  • life sciences research techs
  • microbiology quality control techs
  • microbiology techs
  • nanobiotechnology techs
  • natural resources techs
  • plant breeding techs
  • seed techs
  • wildlife biology techs

What are the roles of Biological Technologists in Canada?

Biological techs work in laboratories and in the field in a wide range of industries and work environments. It is their job to help scientists, doctors, engineers, and other professionals find the scientific answers they need. Generally, biological techs collect and analyze samples of things like seeds, water, food, and drugs. Once the samples are analyzed, techs write reports on their findings. Biological techs also operate and maintain laboratory and field equipment, including microscopes and sample kits.

What are the main duties of Biological Technologists in Canada?

Below are descriptions that describe the duties of techs.

Biological technologists perform some or all of the following duties:

  • set up and run biological, microbiological, and biochemical tests and laboratory analyses to support research and quality control in food production, sanitation, pharmaceutical production, biotechnology, and other fields
  • perform experimental procedures in agriculture, plant breeding, animal husbandry, biology and biomedical research
  • conduct field research and surveys to collect data and samples of water, soil, and plant and animal populations
  • conduct environmental monitoring for the protection of fisheries stock, wildlife, and other natural resources
  • analyze data and prepare reports
  • conduct or supervise programs such as fish hatchery or greenhouse and livestock production

Biological technicians perform some or all of the following duties:

  • assist in conducting biological, microbiological, and biochemical tests and laboratory analyses
  • perform a limited range of technical functions to support agriculture, plant breeding, animal husbandry, biology, biomedical research, and environmental protection
  • assist in conducting field research and surveys to collect data and samples of water, soil, and plant and animal populations
  • assist in analysis of data and preparation of reports

Duties of biological techs depend on the area they work in. Biological techs in pharmacology, for example, may test the effects of different medicines on bacteria. Techs in natural resources may measure the quality of soil or water. Some techs test new food additives for food manufacturers. Others work in cosmetics, crime investigation, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology.

What are the desired traits of Biological Technologists in Canada?

Biological techs should:

  • be analytical
  • be able to keep detailed, accurate records
  • be able to work independently and in a team environment
  • enjoy clear guidelines and organized methods for work
  • enjoy working with laboratory equipment to complete precision tasks
  • enjoy gathering data in the field
  • have the finger dexterity required to adjust microscopes and other fine instruments
  • have good communication and interpersonal skills
  • have good health and physical stamina

Where do Biological Technologists work?

They work for federal and provincial governments, universities, and private companies in the following areas:

  • agriculture
  • aquaculture
  • biotechnology
  • environment and resource management
  • food processing and manufacturing
  • forensics
  • health
  • oil and chemicals
  • pharmaceuticals
  • research and development
  • utilities

What might the typical work conditions be?

Biological techs might work indoors in laboratories and offices or outdoors in all weather conditions, or a combination of both. Those who work outdoors might have to travel to remote locations or operate transport equipment, such as boats, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), or trucks. Apart from any field trips that may be necessary, travel is not usually required.

Most biological techs work 7 to 9 hours a day, 40 to 50 hours a week. Part-time work may also be available. Weekend work and overtime are quite common. Some jobs are seasonal.

Lifting of up to 10 kilograms may be required, but some types of work are more physically demanding.

Biological techs must follow safety procedures and use safety equipment to minimize risk when working with dangerous substances such as infectious bacteria, radioactive agents, and hazardous chemicals.

What qualifications are Canadian employers looking for?

Employers are looking for individuals with a diploma or certificate in a related college program such as:

  • Agriculture
  • Biology
  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science or Food Technology
  • Laboratory Technology
  • Marine Resource Management
  • Medical Laboratory Technology
  • Natural Resources and Conservation

A technician program takes 1 to 2 years. Some large employers require techs to have a diploma, so it’s a good idea to complete a program that lasts at least 2 years. A technologist program takes 2 to 3 years.

Certification is available but voluntary. It is available through the provincial chapters of the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists (CCTT). A period of supervised work experience, usually 2 years, is required before certification is granted. For biological techs working in the environmental field, certification is also available through ECO Canada. Certification proves that you have attained a level of expertise, and it may be required for some positions.

Employers may also require applicants to have:

  • first aid training
  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) training
  • a valid driver’s license (preferably with no demerits)
  • no criminal record

Computer-based skills, such as bioinformatics and molecular modelling, are becoming more important as companies and researchers integrate traditional and information sciences.

In the aquaculture field, there are fewer than 12 facilities in Canada offering aquaculture training, ranging from technical short courses to technology diplomas, degrees and post-graduate studies.

What communication skills do employers expect?

Employers may test language ability because it is important for workers to understand instructions and share information to complete tasks properly and work safely. Strong written and verbal communication skills are important, as are computer skills. Biological techs must be able to share the results of their work in an organized manner.

Below are examples of tasks where biological techs use communication skills on the job:

  • They read equipment manuals to understand how to operate equipment, perform routine maintenance, and identify possible causes of failure. For example, pump manuals provide operational, maintenance, and troubleshooting instructions for fish techs in aquaculture.
  • They write short daily reports that describe daily activities, tasks completed, observations, and problems encountered.
  • They write reports that describe the methods used and the results obtained during biological research studies. They add to the text with tables, photographs, and graphs to show the research clearly and concisely.
  • They persuade equipment manufacturers to expedite the shipment of parts required to repair equipment.

To see examples of how other Essential Skills are used by biological techs in the workplace go to Explore Careers by Essential Skills on the Working in Canada website.

The ability to speak and write in multiple languages can be an advantage in Canada’s multicultural environment.

What is the wage for this occupation?

Wages are affected by the workers’ level of education, the amount and nature of work experience, and job responsibilities. The job location, work conditions, and whether the workforce is unionized or not also makes a difference. The figures provided below reflect a national average for low, median (mid-point), and high wages (before taxes).

Low Median High
$14 per hour $21 per hour $38 per hour
$29,120 per year $43,680 per year $79,040 per year

For wage information in specific regions or cities in Canada, see Working in Canada’s Explore Careers by Wages.

What opportunities for advancement are available to Biological Technologists?

Transferring skills and moving to different jobs within this occupational group can be difficult.

The level of responsibility a biological tech might have in a laboratory program or in field work is related to their education and experience. People who work in these jobs must continue training and developing to keep up with new information and changing technology. People with degrees have a better chance for advancement than those with diplomas. Workers with strong interpersonal, business, and project management skills will have the best job prospects in a tight labour market.

Where can I find out more about Biological Technologists in Canada?

More information about biological techs and related industries is available at the following sites: