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Cytogenetics Certification and Certificate Program Overviews

Clinical laboratory technicians who specialize in cytogenetics analyze human cells, and chromosomes in particular, searching for defects that could indicate congenital disorders. Read on to learn more about certificate programs in cytogenetics, including common courses, as well as requirements for certification.

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Essential Information

Cytogenetic technology certificate programs are designed for individuals who already have a bachelor's degree or who have completed several undergraduate credits, as well as those who already have experience in a medical laboratory setting. These programs typically are offered through the health science departments of 4-year universities or through teaching and research hospitals. Graduates can opt to take the examination for professional certification, which may make them more attractive to employers.

The majority of the curriculum in a cytogenetic technology certificate program includes didactic classroom lectures and clinical laboratory experience. Programs take about nine months to complete. Students explore basic principles of cytogenetics, types of congenital disorders that cytogenetics can detect and legal issues related to cytogenetics. They also learn to perform the day-to-day tasks of a laboratory technologist specializing in cytogenetics, such as preparing slides for analysis and testing, culturing cells and analyzing cells to detect abnormalities.

Education Prerequisites

Cytogenetics certificate programs are open to senior-level undergraduate students or recent graduates who have earned a baccalaureate degree in a field covering the subjects of biology, molecular genetics, chemistry, algebra and clinical laboratory science. Admission to such a program also generally requires submission of a drug test, background test and record of immunizations.

Program Coursework

During the clinical portion of a cytogenetic technology certificate program, students spend supervised hours learning to perform chromosome analysis, molecular cytogenetics techniques and specimen harvesting. Classroom lectures typically cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to cytogenetics
  • Congenital disorders
  • Hematology
  • Prenatal cytogenetics
  • Analytical cytogenetics
  • Fluorescent in situ DNA probes
  • Ethical issues in genetics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data specifically regarding cytogenetic technologists, also known as cytotechnologists. It did report, however, that clinical laboratory technologists in general held more than 160,000 positions in 2012 (www.bls.gov). Jobs for medical and clinical lab technologists were projected to increase 11% between 2010 and 2020. In 2012, medical and clinical laboratory technologists earned an annual median salary of $57,580, or $27.69 per hour, according to the BLS.

According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), cytotechnologist staff members earned an average of $31.45 per hour in 2013 (www.ascp.org). Those who served as lead employees earned $35.20 per hour, and those in supervisory positions earned approximately $37.09 per hour.

Certification and Continuing Education

The National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCALP) offers a certification examination for cytogenetic technologists. Individuals who have completed a certificate program in the field should have the educational requirements necessary to sit for the test. The ASCP also offers a certification examination in the field.

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