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A career as a STEM technician


Government plans to refocus the UK economy on high-tech, engineering and ‘knowledge-based’ industries can be seen as creating a wide variety of career opportunities for people of all educational backgrounds.           Contrary to the common misconception that STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are only accessible via university degrees, a new award launched by STEMNET and The Gatsby Charitable Foundation will profile rewarding and important  technician careers in which success lies largely in vocational training.

Technicians are skilled professionals who solve practical problems through the creative use of techniques and procedures. They work across UK industry and academic disciplines supporting and facilitating the work of scientists and engineers, and serving as the bridge that connects the two. Technicians have played a major, but often uncelebrated, role in the UK’s proud heritage in research and innovation.  And yet the people in those jobs in the UK today come from a wide variety of backgrounds including both university graduates and those who have taken a more vocational path.

With technical skills in high demand by employers, government has begun to recognise the importance of technicians across many UK commercial sectors. In 2011 the Skills Commission launched a report exploring how the UK should create more technicians with STEM skills. It argued that to rebalance the economy and create more jobs, UK employers urgently need skills to compete globally in high-growth sectors. The report marked the first commitment by government to developing a technical pathway - through schools, colleges and universities - into the technician profession.

As a lynchpin for UK innovation and research, technicians are integral to the UK facing and overcoming some of its greatest challenges of the next century – from updating our transport infrastructure and local internet access, to securing the future of our energy supply. Roles within the profession are hugely varied, offering opportunities to travel, competitive wages and good prospects for promotion and career progression.

Despite their importance and attractiveness as a career, the number of STEM technicians entering the profession is failing to meet demand, consequently, creating a skills shortage. The 2010 National Strategic Skills Audit described technicians as a “high priority area of critical importance to the economy”. A Manpower report from the same year identified technicians as sixth in a list of jobs that UK employers are having difficulty filling. It is this shortage and the effects it is predicted to have across the UK economy, that have promoted the recent government response.


What does a STEM Technician do? Well have a read of the following and you'll find overviews of just some of STEM technicians roles.

Education Lab Technician

An education lab technician helps students and staff in educational institutions make the best use of laboratory facilities. They work within schools, colleges and universities and will set up, use and test scientific equipment, ranging from basic microscopes to advanced and sensitive research equipment.

They provide crucial support to science teachers by preparing and delivering materials that have been requested for their lessons and will then clear the materials away after they have been used. They are required to keep the laboratories tidy and well equipped.

Technicians can be involved in all areas of science (primarily chemistry, biology and physics) or they may specialise in a single subject. Work in schools tends to be part-time or term times only, however work in colleges and universities is more likely to be full time.

Salaries may start at around £11,500 and rise to over £30,000 a year. University salary levels tend to be higher.

For more information on training and opportunities, go to



Food Scientist/Technologist

A food scientist is concerned with all technical aspects of food, starting with slaughtering or harvesting, and ending with its cooking and consumption. They work in the food, catering and retail industries, and for the Government in research, trading standards departments and environmental health.

Food scientists are concerned with the study of the nature, properties and characteristics of food, as well as the selection of suitable raw products and ingredients. They may develop new, or improve existing food products or develop concepts needed to design new processes, equipment or packages for food. They may liaise with other departments such as buying and marketing, test the quality of raw materials and finished products and research fundamental aspects of food such as composition, microbial contamination and shelf life.

Salaries can range from £20,000 to over £50,000 a year.

For more information on training and opportunities, go to


Geological Technician

A geological technician assists and supports the work of geologists and other geoscientists. They are involved in data collection and analysis, research and administrative duties. They may also be required to prepare rock, soil and petroleum samples for testing/examination and to research into historical data regarding oil drilling, oil well construction, and geological changes.

A Geological technician may also be required to organize field trips, exploratory drilling and surveys.

Employers can include oil companies, service companies supporting oil and gas exploration, museums and universities.

Salaries may range from around £18,500 to over £40,000

For more information on training and opportunities, please go to 


Laboratory Technician

Laboratory technicians are responsible for laboratory-based work, which include sampling, testing, measuring, recording and analysing results in the biological, chemical, physical and life sciences. They are also responsible for preparing  instrumentation and apparatus such as chemicals and solutions for use in laboratories.

The fields of science laboratory technicians are generally involved in include forensic science, scientific analysis, education and the health services.

Laboratory technicians are also responsible for ensuring the equipment remains in good working order and may be responsible for ordering new equipment and supplies. They must provide all the required technical support to enable the laboratory to function effectively whilst ensuring they adhere to correct procedures and guidelines on health and safety.

They may also be required to record and sometimes interpret results as part of a scientific team.

Salaries start at around £14,000 a year and can rise to over £30,000.

For more information on training and opportunities, go to

For lots of information on careers in STEM go to

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network.

Their vision  “To increase young people's choice and chances through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”.  Provides resources for students, teachers and professionals.


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