What Skills are Important to Manage a Research Laboratory?

research labJumping into an exciting scientific career as a laboratory manager will require that you sharpen more than just your research skills. Laboratory managers, also referred to as coordinators, hold significant responsibility in directing the testing activities of biologists, psychologists, chemists, and other scientists. Leading a research laboratory is an upper-level management position in which you'll collaborate with an organization's top executives to develop research goals. Hiring, supervising, managing, and evaluating laboratory staff will all be within your job description. Since employment of lab managers is expected to be slower than average at six percent through 2022, it's essential that you market yourself wisely to compete for openings. Below are some of the skills you'll need to show professional competence as a laboratory manager.

Leadership and Communication

Being a skilled communicator is a must for laboratory managers to clearly direct scientists, collaborate with executives, report to policymakers, and inform the general public. Laboratory managers spend most of their time leading research teams, so working well with and motivating others is a minimum requirement. Laboratory managers need to possess the managerial capacity to effectively resolve conflicts and ensure positive outcomes for their research goals. Good decision-making abilities will help lab coordinators establish a clear course of action for scientists to follow. Managing a research laboratory requires interpersonal maturity to maintain a scientific environment where research and development can succeed.

Organization and Multi-Tasking

With staff cutbacks and reduced financial resources, laboratory managers often need to sharpen their multi-tasking capabilities to effectively tackle conflicting priorities. Becoming a lab manager is best for quick critical thinkers who can determine the best research methods for staying on track. Time management is crucial for lab managers to successfully complete several administrative and technical tasks while keeping projects moving smoothly before looming deadlines. Laboratory managers must be organized with a key attention to detail for keeping meticulous records on the operational progress of research projects. Good writing finesse will also help lab managers draft well-organized project proposals and reports for winning more monetary grants.

Budgeting and Problem-Solving

Research activities are unfortunately being increasingly outsourced or put on hold due to tighter budget funding. That's why it's critical for laboratory managers to have the analytical abilities to maintain financial records and keep their research projects on budget. Lab coordinators carry the hefty task of keeping their testing facility fully stocked with research instruments and equipment regardless of the budget constraints. Laboratory managers should have the creative problem-solving capabilities to find cost-effective solutions for achieving milestones. Managers need to listen to concerns from their lab staff and establish a resolution that works. Controlling the inner workings of a laboratory means constantly correcting unexpected glitches as they arise.

If you long to work at the heart of a research laboratory, you'll first need to receive post-secondary training to perfect the right skill set. At the minimum, laboratory managers need to obtain a four-year bachelor's degree in an appropriate science field, such as biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, environmental science, or health science. Many lab managers advance into leadership after working as a scientist, so earning a terminal master's or Ph.D. degree may be required too. Building as much laboratory experience as possible is crucial for fostering the right management skills. Although becoming a laboratory manager takes plenty of education and hard work, it'll pay off with a handsome six-figure average yearly salary of $136,450.

Related Resource: How Can I Get a Job With the CDC with a Degree in Healthcare?

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