Medical Laboratory Technician & Technologist Careers


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Medical laboratory technicians and technologists are trained healthcare professionals who collect medical samples and perform tests. They analyze body fluids, study blood samples, and discuss the results of tests with physicians.

Medical laboratory technician and technologist jobs offer good salaries with strong growth projections. The median salary formedical laboratory technicians and technologists was slightly more than $50,000 per year in 2019. Most medical laboratory technician jobs require an associate degree or postsecondary certificate, while medical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor's degree.

Essential Career Information
Median Annual Salary $52,330 per year
Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-2028 11% (Much faster than average)
Number of New Jobs from 2018-2028 331,700
Average Entry-Level Education Requirements Bachelor's Degree
Annual Salary of the Highest 10% $80,330
Annual Salary of the Lowest 10% $29,910

Source: BLS

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What Does a  Medical Laboratory Technician or Technologist Do?

Medical laboratory technicians and technologists play an important role in the healthcare system. They collect samples from patients and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissues, and other medical samples. Medical laboratory technicians and technologists also operate the laboratory equipment used to perform medical tests, record data from these tests and discuss the results with physicians.

Medical laboratory technicians collect samples from patients and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissues, and other medical samples.

Medical laboratory science professionals can specialize in several areas. A blood bank technologist, also known as an immunohematology technologist, collects and classifies blood samples and prepares materials for blood transfusions. Clinical chemistry technologists perform tests that analyze the chemical and hormonal levels in body fluids. Immunology technologists test the human immune system through their research, while microbiology technologists identify bacteria or other microorganisms in body fluids.

Medical laboratory technicians and technologists rely on several critical skills to perform their jobs. They must have a strong background in technology, particularly computerized laboratory equipment. They must also possess a detail-oriented outlook to effectively perform tests and collect results. Most medical laboratory technicians and technologists work in hospitals, medical or diagnostic laboratories, or doctors' offices.

What Is the Difference Between Medical Technologists and Medical Laboratory Technicians?

Both technicians and technologists perform medical tests using laboratory equipment; however, medical laboratory technologists hold greater responsibilities and conduct more complex tasks. For example, a technologist might perform more difficult tests that require manual procedures, while technicians conduct more automated tests.

Medical laboratory technicians generally need an associate degree or certificate, while medical laboratory technologists must typically hold a bachelor's degree. Some states require both medical laboratory technicians and technologists to hold a license.

Become a Medical Lab Technician

Certificate Programs

Medical laboratory certificate programs prepare graduates for medical laboratory technician jobs. Learners study topics like hematology, microbiology, and phlebotomy. They learn how to analyze tissue samples, blood samples, and other body fluids as well as how to identify abnormal results and enter medical tests into patient records.

Additionally, certificate programs train students to operate laboratory equipment, including microscopes and cell counters. The program also covers safety practices, such as OSHA standards and protective measures when operating laboratory equipment.

Completing a medical laboratory certificate program often takes 1-2 years. Graduates can pursue jobs as medical laboratory technicians, working in specialized roles like clinical laboratory technician or blood bank technician, or apply to a degree-granting program for further training.

Associate Degree Programs

Graduates with an associate degree qualify for entry-level medical laboratory technician positions. An associate degree helps candidates stand out in the job market compared to candidates with a medical laboratory technician certificate. The degree also provides foundational training for a bachelor's degree.

Learners study topics like microbiology, immunology, and hematology. They also receive training in blood work, medical lab equipment, and safety standards. Most programs blend classroom lectures with hands-on training in a laboratory setting to build professional skills. In addition to coursework in medical laboratory science, students complete general education classes to build critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

An associate degree generally takes two years of full-time study to complete. Graduates can pursue employment as medical laboratory technicians or apply to a bachelor's program to advance their career.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science or medical technology prepares students for entry-level medical laboratory technologist roles. Learners take classes on topics like immunology, molecular biology, and biotechnology. Students also take coursework in biostatistics, research methods, and clinical laboratory practices.

Bachelor's students often take laboratory classes to gain hands-on experience with equipment and procedures. Most programs also incorporate clinical practicums or internships. In addition to major coursework, students take general education classes in chemistry, anatomy, English, and math.

A bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. Transfer students with prior college credit can earn their degree in less time. Graduates can work as clinical laboratory technologists or medical laboratory technologists in hospitals, clinical laboratories, medical research facilities, and other clinical settings.

Professional Licensure and Certifications

In some states, medical laboratory professionals must hold a license. The licensure process often includes meeting minimum education and experience requirements and passing an exam. Some states set certification as a licensure requirement, only granting licenses to certified medical laboratory professionals. The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science provides additional information on licensure requirements.

In addition to a professional license, medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians can pursue professional certification. Certification remains voluntary in most states but helps professionals advance their careers and demonstrate their expertise.

Medical laboratory technicians and technologists can pursue general or specialized certification in areas like medical biology or cytotechnology. Certification candidates typically need a medical laboratory certificate or degree from an accredited program. Candidates must then pass an examination. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, American Medical Technologists, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology offer medical laboratory technician certification.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a medical laboratory technologist do?

Medical laboratory technologists perform tests on body fluids and tissue samples to help physicians effectively treat patients.

How much do medical laboratory technologists make?

The average medical laboratory technologist salary exceeds $52,000 a year, which amounts to over $25 an hour.

What is the difference between a medical laboratory technician and a medical technologist?

Medical laboratory technologists perform more complex tests and procedures than medical laboratory technicians, so they often need additional education and training.

Is medical laboratory technologist a good career?

Yes; medical laboratory technologists earn above-average salaries and benefit from faster-than-average job growth projections.

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