A bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory science can lead to a career as a clinical lab technologist, while an associate's degree or certificate can prepare individuals for work as a lab technician. The topics these professionals typically study while in school can include hematology, lab procedures, and microbiology. Once in the lab, clinical technologists and technicians often use advanced biomedical equipment to understand data pertaining to the well-being of medical patients.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians learn about a patient's health from a blood, saliva or other bodily tissue samples. They use a wide variety of lab equipment and procedures to detect the presence of parasites, chemical buildup, foreign fluids or other abnormalities. Typically, a clinical laboratory technologist will be required to possess a bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory science, while most clinical laboratory technicians are required to attain an associate's degree or post-secondary certificate in clinical laboratory science. Some states require that clinical laboratory technologists and technicians be licensed. This career path may appeal to an individual who enjoys working in a laboratory environment and is interested in the general health care field.
|Career||Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist||Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician|
|Recommended Education||Bachelor's degree||Associate's degree or post-secondary certificate|
|Other Requirements||State license and certification may be required||State license and certification may be required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||14%||18%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$60,520||$38,970|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Clinical Laboratory Science Degree Information
Programs in clinical laboratory science can lead to either an associate or bachelor's degree. Students could also consider majoring in a life science, such as biology or chemistry. Coursework typically covers subjects in microbiology, hematology, chemistry, analysis and lab procedures. Students usually have opportunities to perform hands-on work in a hospital or clinical laboratory. Upon completion of a degree program, graduates can qualify for work in an entry-level position.
Clinical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Career Info
Known as either medical or clinical laboratory technicians or technologists, these professionals uncover data about patients' health and provide physicians with the information necessary for diagnosis, treatment and disease prevention. Using sophisticated biomedical technology and manual dexterity, clinical laboratory techs test blood and body fluids, making judgments about possible diagnosis and examining data carefully for medical clues. The data recovered by clinical laboratory techs might be used to identify bacteria or viruses that cause infections, detect disease or identify drug abuse.
Prospective clinical laboratory technicians can earn an associate degree from a community college or university. Alternatively, they could participate in a certificate program through hospitals, schools or the military. Laboratory technologists generally require a bachelor's degree. Differences between the two professions frequently include the level of testing: technicians often prepare samples and work with automated equipment, while technologists could perform more manual and specialized testing.
Certification and Licensure Information
Some states regulate the work that clinical lab technologists and technicians can perform. Registration or licensing might be necessary to secure a job in some types of laboratories or perform certain testing or tasks. States that mandate licensure or registration often require testing of applicants to ensure their competency. In some cases, the state might accept professional certification testing to be completed in lieu of a state exam.
Clinical laboratory scientists could benefit from professional certification in the field. The American Society for Clinical Pathology offers certification exams for clinical laboratory scientists in such areas as medical technology, hematology, chemistry and blood banking. Additionally, the American Association of Bioanalysts provides board certifications for its member laboratory technicians and technologists. Approved candidates can also test for the National Registry of Certified Chemists' toxicological chemist certification.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted employment for medical and clinical laboratory technicians and technologists would increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). New technologies could work for and against lab techs. Though biological advances and exploratory procedures have made testing more common, some testing equipment that's available to non-laboratory professionals could hinder job availability. The median annual salary for medical and clinical lab technologists was $60,520 in 2015, while medical laboratory technicians earned median wages of $38,970 that year, reported the BLS.
Some of the tests that clinical laboratory technicians or technologists conduct involve blood and body fluids, which they analyze for signs of possible infection, drug use, viruses, bacteria, or disease. Depending on their job title and educational background, the duties of technologists and technicians can vary quite a lot; technicians usually handle equipment and prepare samples, while technologists often conduct more intricate testing. In certain states, these professionals are required to hold licensure in order to validate their competency, and sometimes the state may also regulate the kind of work they are permitted to perform.