Clinical lab technicians and clinical lab technologists are clinical laboratory assisting professionals. Technicians are required to have a relevant certificate or associate's degree, while technologists need a bachelor's degree. Both technicians and technologists also learn some tasks through hand-on training, and may be required to have a license or be certified.
Those who wish to pursue a health care job but prefer to remain in a lab may pursue a degree or certificate in clinical lab assisting, sometimes referred to as clinical lab technology. These programs can lead to a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree, and common topics include lab procedures, chemistry and biology, among others. Some hands-on lab training is usually part of the curriculum as well. Graduates of these programs may be qualified to work as clinical lab technicians or technologists. Certification may increase both job prospects and earning potential.
|Clinical Lab Technicians||Clinical Lab Technologists|
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||License or certification sometimes required||License or certification sometimes required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||18%||14%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$38,970||$60,520|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Clinical technologists and technicians can work in a research lab, hospital or education facility. According to the BLS, most technologists have a bachelor's degree, and most technicians have an associate's degree or certificate in medical technology or a related field. Some states may require technologists and technicians to be licensed or certified, but they have independent guidelines and requirements. Learn more about the careers of clinical lab technicians and technologists below.
Clinical Laboratory Technician
Clinical laboratory technicians usually work under supervision of a technologist or lab manager and perform less-complicated tasks than does a lab technologist. Their job may include preparing specimens or operating automatic testing equipment. Some may perform non-automated tests or gather samples, depending on their training. In 2014, there were 163,400 medical and clinical technicians in the nation, and they earned a median annual salary of $38,970 as of May 2015, per the BLS.
Clinical Laboratory Technologist
Clinical lab technologists run tests to assist with diagnosis. They use machines to conduct bacteriological, immunological and phlebotomy tests to microscopically evaluate blood and other bodily fluids. They also make cultures of tissue samples to determine whether bacterial or microorganisms are present, analyze for their chemical content and match blood samples. Technologists may design testing procedures and monitor tests to ensure accurate results. Some technologists may supervise clinical lab technicians. As of 2014, there were 164,800 medical and clinical technologists in the nation, and as of May 2015 those in this profession earned a median annual salary of $60,520, according to the BLS.
Voluntary certification may increase earning potential and employment opportunities. Employers may prefer certified applicants because certification demonstrates knowledge of the practices of the field.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers certification for medical lab technicians. To earn this certification, an individual must have an associate's degree or about 60 hours of academic training in the field and pass an exam.
The American Medical Technologists (AMT) organization also offers certification for both technologists and technicians. Both credentials require passing an exam. To be eligible to sit for the AMT medical lab technologist exam, an individual must have a bachelor's degree. To be eligible to sit for the AMT medical lab technician exam, an individual must have an associate's degree or have completed at least 60 hours of college-level education coursework.
Clinical lab technologists work in medical labs where they help with the diagnosis of a patient by running tests ordered by physicians. Technicians assist technologists and perform tasks such as getting specimens ready for testing or using automated testing equipment on samples. Professionals in these fields are expected to see favorable job growth from 2014 to 2024, which means that those pursuing a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in medical technology or a comparable subject area should have many job opportunities to pursue after graduation.