Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

My job explained: Senior teaching technician

My job explained: Senior teaching technicianTracy McGhie has reached the top of her career as a laboratory technician. Find out how she got there and why she enjoys the daily challenges her job throws up.

What inspired you to study chemistry?

My A-level chemistry teacher was brilliant. Also the style of learning really suited me – I loved the hands-on practical nature of the subject and found the problem solving aspect of it a great challenge.

How long did it take to train and what did the training involve?

I started my career as a trainee technician and was promoted after about 18 months. I completed a chemistry degree part-time whilst working and this enabled me to take my career to the next level. Having a degree is really worthwhile but my experience show that you don’t have to go the traditional route – you can earn and learn at the same time.

Can you describe a typical working day?

A typical working day involves a good mixture of spending time with people and working on my own. I supervise a team of technicians, prepare practical classes for students, demonstrate how to use the equipment in the labs and have some administrative duties. I am also responsible for health and safety in the laboratory as well as additional duties such as updating the departmental web pages when lab classes are not running.

The job also involves development of new practicals to keep the classes varied and up-to-date, the knowledge gained from taking my chemistry degree to solve practical problems comes in really useful for this part of my role.

What's the best thing about your job?

I love the fact that every day is different. Whilst the job has an annual cycle to it, no two days are the same, mainly because I spend a lot of time with such a wide variety of people – which always makes life more fun and unpredictable.

Have there been any challenges to getting where you are now?

I was the first person in my family to study for a degree, and at the time I took my degree there were more men than women taking the subject. Going to university is always going to be a challenge though – there wouldn’t be any point in doing it otherwise – and the career benefits have definitely made all that studying worth it.

What qualities and skills do you think are important for your role?

You need to be organised, practical, a good problem solver and good communicator. You also need to be computer literate as many of the instruments are controlled by computer – you do get to learn lots of computer skills on the job as well, so you need to be prepared to pick new things up all the time.

What advice would you give to someone thinking following in your footsteps?

Many people are put off by the fact that a chemistry degree is perceived to be difficult. It is true that the degree requires you to put the time in but it gives you so many transferable skills that it opens up all sorts of career opportunities.

What difference have chemists made to society?

Chemistry is everywhere you look. Chemists are working on new materials, better batteries, environmental issues, new drugs and new fuels. All of which are important to society and for the advancement of technology. It would be difficult to imagine a world without the things chemistry has made possible in our life.

Related links