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Clinical Specialist: Job Description & Requirements

Keep reading to learn more about what a clinical specialist does. See what the education and training requirements are, and get details about career prospects and earning potential for this job.

Career Definition for a Clinical Specialist

Clinical specialists often work in laboratories as part of a team of technologists, technicians, and supervisors to carry out clinical lab tests. Clinical specialists are a critical link in noticing, identifying, treating, and monitoring illnesses. While the precise duties of a clinical specialist will vary by training and place of employment, they usually specialize in one or several lab tests or procedures, including looking for bacteria or parasites, analyzing fluids, testing for drug levels, preparing specimens, counting cells, and making cultures.

Education Bachelor's degree preferred
Job Skills Precision, communications, working well with others, individualized skills
Median Salary (2015)* $50,550 for medical and clinical lab technicians and technologists
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for medical and clinical lab technicians and technologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

The education requirements to become a clinical specialist will vary by the place of employment and the duties to be performed. Typically, a bachelor's degree in a field like medical technology, biology, chemistry, or another of the life sciences is required. Common classes in a 4-year, bachelor's degree program include biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, mathematics, biostatistics, and physiology. Additional training in specific lab techniques or a state license may be necessary in some states and places of employment.

Required Skills

Clinical specialists usually carry out a relatively narrow range of duties or tests repeatedly; if you want to become a clinical specialist, you should be prepared to focus exclusively on honing a small set of skills and techniques. A career in clinical science also requires precision, good communications skills and the ability to work well with colleagues.

Employment and Economic Outlook

The employment outlook for clinical lab technicians and technologists, which includes clinical specialists, is faster than average compared to all occupations; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment in this field to grow 16% from 2012-2022. Median earnings for medical and clinical technicians and technologists were $50,530 in May 2015.

Alternative Career Options

For other options in lab careers, consider these choices:

Biological Technician

A biological technician conducts experiments that assist biological scientists and medical scientists with their research. Using specialized instruments, they collect and analyze samples, writing up their test results for sharing with the group. Biological technicians have a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field; employers strongly prefer candidates with a lot of hands-on lab experience. Job growth for biological technicians is expected to be 5% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS, which is about equal to all jobs during that same decade. The median pay rate for biological technicians was $41,650 in 2015, per the BLS.

Chemical Technician

A chemical technician assists chemists and chemical engineers in their research. Chemical technicians carry out experiments and research in fields like quality control, medical research, and environmental science. They analyze and interpret their findings and compose reports to share with others. Chemical technicians usually have an associate's degree in applied science or a related field with an emphasis on lab work. On-the-job training is common. The BLS reports that chemical technicians can expect job growth of 2% from 2014-2024, and that chemical technicians earned median pay of $44,660 in 2015.

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