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Overview

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:

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

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 occupational group, based on employment levels, is Science Technicians. Overall, employment levels in this group increased between 2002 and 2022, from 16,500 to 20,300. However, Science Technicians’ employment levels fluctuated, with a low of 10,100 in 2016 before peaking at 24,200 in 2018. The employment level is projected to increase to 22,300 by 2026.

Comparatively, the employment levels are considerably lower in the two other occupations – Agricultural Technicians, and Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians (not further defined). Employment projections to 2026 indicate the levels in each occupation group will grow to 1,900 and 100 respectively.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Between 2017 and 2021, program enrolments in Laboratory Operations-related qualifications increased from approximately 6,470 to about 9,130. Overall, program completions also increased from approximately 2,840 in 2017 to 3,940 in 2021.

The overwhelming majority of training in this industry is delivered as part of a nationally recognised program. In 2021, there were approximately 70,610 enrolments in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program compared with about 170 enrolments in subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program.

Most program enrolments in Laboratory Operations-related qualifications in 2021 were spread across the certificate II (28%), certificate III (25%) and certificate IV levels (33%). The remaining 14% were in Diploma or higher qualifications. A third (33%) of program enrolments are in the Laboratory Techniques qualification group, with more than a quarter (28%) in Sampling and Measurement group and a quarter (25%) in Laboratory Skills. The main intended occupation from training in this sector is Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians (72%).

In 2021, more than half (52%) of training in this sector was delivered by private training providers, with TAFE institutes delivering 31% of training. However, there was considerable variation depending on the different qualifications. Overall, approximately 82% of Laboratory Operations-related qualifications were Commonwealth and state funded. However, the funding was nearly equally split between government (47%) and domestic fee for service arrangements (53%) in Community education providers in 2021.

Queensland (45%) had the highest proportion of students enrolled in Laboratory Operations related qualifications in 2021, followed by Victoria (16%), and New South Wales and Western Australia (15% each). Nealy half (45%) of training in this sector was delivered in Queensland, followed by Western Australia and Victoria (17% each) and New South Wales (15%).

Overall, apprenticeship and traineeship commencements declined from approximately 1,710 in 2012 to nearly 970 in 2021. Apprenticeship and traineeship completions also declined, from about 770 in 2012 to nearly 430 in 2021.

The main intended occupation in 2021 from apprenticeships and traineeships in Laboratory Operations-related qualifications was Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians. In 2021, approximately 40% of apprenticeships and traineeships were undertaken in Queensland, followed by 29% in Western Australia, 14% in New South Wales and 11% in Victoria.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

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 Vehicles and Laboratory IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast was the last skills forecast published by the IRC. It identified the top five generic skills as:

  • Technology
  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/System thinking/Solving problems
  • Data analysis
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) skills.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers were communication skills, detail-orientated and problem solving. The most advertised Laboratory Operations occupations were Laboratory Technician followed by Laboratory Assistant, with the governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland the top employers.

In the course of developing the IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, research and consultations identified future skills priorities were emerging in the pathology sector, specifically surgical cut-up skills and genetic and molecular testing.

In other sectors, food testing skills were emerging in response to compliance with health and safety standards and quality standards in the food processing industry. Further, the growing overseas markets, particularly in Asia, meant this area was becoming increasingly important.

Metallurgical skills were also changing and the need for the development of a skill set focused on gravity separation, flotation, hydrometallurgy was raised by some stakeholders from the mining industry.

Accordingly, the IRC developed the Laboratory Operations project to update and develop new training products, including redevelopment of five qualifications to address the sector’s needs for surgical cut-up, genetic testing, molecular testing and diagnostics and food testing skills. Further, with automation of numerous processes, a general unit to address skills needed for automation in laboratory work was proposed. Specifically, the project reviewed and redeveloped:

  • Certificate II in Sampling and Measurement
  • Certificate III in Laboratory Skills
  • Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques
  • Diploma of Laboratory Technology
  • Advanced Diploma of Laboratory Operations
  • 60 existing units of competency.

It also developed:

  • Five new units of competency: ‘Simple transfers in surgical cut-up’, ‘Simple surgical cut-up’, ‘Perform histological cut up triage and allocation’, ‘Molecular testing’ and ‘Operate automated laboratory equipment’
  • Two new skillsets.

The project was approved by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee in October 2022.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • 3110 Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians (nfd)
    • 3111 Agricultural Technician
    • 3114 Science Technician.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSCO, 2002 to 2022, 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
    • MSL60118 - Advanced Diploma of Laboratory Operations
    • PML60104 - Advanced Diploma of Laboratory Operations.
  • Laboratory Skills
    • MSL30109 - Certificate III in Laboratory Skills
    • MSL30116 - Certificate III in Laboratory Skills
    • MSL30118 - Certificate III in Laboratory Skills
    • PML30104 - Certificate III in Laboratory Skills.
  • Laboratory Techniques
    • MSL40109 - Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques
    • MSL40116 - Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques
    • MSL40118 - Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques
    • PML40104 - Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques.
  • Laboratory Technology
    • MSL50109 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology
    • MSL50116 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology
    • MSL50118 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology
    • PML50104 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology
    • PML50199 - Diploma of Laboratory Technology.
  • Sampling and Measurement
    • MSL20109 - Certificate II in Sampling and Measurement
    • MSL20116 - Certificate II in Sampling and Measurement
    • MSL20118 - Certificate II in Sampling and Measurement
    • PML20104 - 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:

  • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 subject enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 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:

  • 2012 to 2021 commencements
  • 2012 to 2021 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2021 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 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.

  • 3111 Agricultural Technicians
  • 3114 Science Technicians
  • 311 Agricultural, Medical and Science Technicians.
Updated: 30 Nov 2022
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