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This page provides information and data on the Laboratory Operations sector, which is a component of the broader Manufacturing and Related Services industry.

Laboratory Operations is not an industry sector as such. It refers to a diverse group of certain technical and scientific occupations such as Samplers, Testers and Laboratory Personnel that appear across industries. 

Laboratory Services play a critical role in the safety, quality and compliance of many industry sectors. Consequently, the sector is highly regulated.

Nationally recognised training for Laboratory Operations sector is delivered under the MSL –  Laboratory Operations Training Package.

For other information on manufacturing and related services, visit the following cluster pages:

Information sourced from the Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicle and Laboratory IRC's Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Laboratory Operations does not fit into any specific industry sector(s). There are however some occupations that are relevant to those undertaking Laboratory Operations qualifications in the VET sector.

The largest in terms of numbers employed is Science Technicians. Employment numbers for this occupation fluctuated between 2000 and 2018. The employment level more than doubled between 2017 and 2018 from around 12,000 to around 24,200. Employment in this occupation is projected to further increase by 2023 to around 25,500.

There are only small numbers of people employed in the two other occupations – Agricultural Technicians, and Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians (not further defined). Numbers are project to remain small to 2023 (1,300 and 200 respectively). 

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were just under 6,500 program enrolments in the Laboratory Operations Training Package during 2017, down from approximately 7,600 enrolments in 2014. Annual program completion numbers remained relatively stable over the period 2014–16 at around the 3,100 mark, however 2017 has so far seen a decrease in the number of completions. Over the last four years there have been few subject-only (no qualification) enrolments for this training package.

During 2017, program enrolments were fairly evenly distributed across the qualification levels from certificate II to diploma and above. There were no enrolments at the certificate I level. In terms of qualification clusters, again enrolments were fairly evenly distributed, with the exception of laboratory operations where there were very few; the area of laboratory techniques had the most.

Sampling and measurement-related qualifications are aimed at the intended occupation of Science Technician, while the qualifications in other areas are aimed at the intended occupation of Agricultural, Medical and Science Technician.

For enrolments during 2017, just under half of the qualifications were provided by TAFE institutes, with a further 35% being delivered by private providers. In terms of subject enrolments; 72% were government funded, with the rest split between domestic fee-for-service (17%) and international fee-for-service (11%). Just under a third of enrolments in 2017 were by students from Queensland and just under a fifth were from Western Australia. 

Apprenticeship and traineeship commencements have declined considerably from around 1,700 during 2012 to just under 400 in 2017. Apprenticeship completions peaked at 1094 during 2014 and have also declined considerably since, down to 324 in 2017.

Apprenticeships and traineeships are aimed at the intended occupation of Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians, and during 2017, over two thirds of apprenticeship activity was reported from either Western Australia (37%) or Queensland (31%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicle and Laboratory IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast, identifies technology use and application skills as the most important for Laboratory Operations. Like many other parts of the manufacturing industry, technology-driven change through automation is a key factor. According to the IRC skills forecast, automation is considered likely to result in an overall decrease in Laboratory Operations’ jobs requiring manual skills. Industry stakeholders identified a need for workers who can troubleshoot, analyse and interpret data. However, it was also noted that it is important that manual skills are maintained to ensure processes can continue running, should a machine break down and need repair.

Other top ranked generic skills for the sector include STEM skills (including technology and data analytical skills), critical thinking and problem solving. The job vacancy data also indicates problem solving skills are sought after for occupations in this sector, along with a high demand for communication and research skills.

The need for STEM skills was highlighted by the National Innovation and Science Agenda. In particular, there is a focus on expanding opportunities for women to enter STEM-related careers. More broadly the agenda aims to inspire all Australians to engage with STEM.

The report What is STEM? The need for unpacking its definitions and applications, notes that the development of STEM skills is not only the domain of schools and universities but is intrinsic to the VET sector. The VET sector is the major supplier of engineering and technology skills, along with non-technical employability skills such as communication. The report also points out that STEM skills go hand in hand with a variety of other non-technical skills and should not be seen separately from them (and its implications for more ‘holistic’ skills development). The priority and generic skills from the IRC skills forecast, and also from the job advertisement data, support this, indicating demand for a mix of STEM-related skills and broader employability skills.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
    • 3110 Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians (nfd)
    • 3111 Agricultural Technician
    • 3114 Science Technician.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), sex, state and territory, August 1986 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ08, viewed 1 November 2018 <>

  • Employed total by ANZSCO, 2000 to 2018, May Quarter
    • 3110 Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians (nfd)
    • 3111 Agricultural Technician
    • 3114 Science Technician.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

MSL (includes PML) Laboratory Operations Training Package.

  • Laboratory Operations
    • MSL60109 - Advanced Diploma of Laboratory Operations
    • MSL60116 - Advanced Diploma of Laboratory Operations
  • Laboratory Skills
    • MSL30109 - Certificate III in Laboratory Skills
    • MSL30116 - Certificate III in Laboratory Skills
  • Laboratory Techniques
    • MSL40109 - Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques
    • MSL40116 - Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques
  • Laboratory Technology
    • MSL50109 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology
    • MSL50116 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology
    • PML50104 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology
  • Sampling and Measurement
    • MSL20109 - Certificate II in Sampling and Measurement
    • MSL20116 - Certificate II in Sampling and Measurement.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document. 

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

MSL (includes PML) Laboratory Operations Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2017 commencements
  • 2010 to 2017 completions 
  • 2017 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2017 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority and generic skills data have been extracted from the Process Manufacturing, Recreational Vehicle and Laboratory IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2018, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2018, <>.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2015 and June 2018 filtered by ANZSCO classification levels listed below. ANZSCO occupations have been used as industry filters because they provide more relevant job vacancy data for this sector.

  • Generic skills
    • 3111 Agricultural Technicians
    • 3114 Science Technicians
    • 311000 Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians nfd
  • Employers
    • 311499 Science Technicians nec
    • 311412 Earth Science Technician
    • 311111 Agricultural Technician
    • 311413 Life Science Technician
    • 311411 Chemistry Technician.
Updated: 19 Dec 2018
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