Many histology techs work in hospitals, laboratories and veterinary clinics, while others work in forensic laboratories or help with research. Curricula in histology programs include practical experience working in a lab as well as classroom time. These programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences and prepare students for certification exams through the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Histotechnician programs take 1-2 academic years to complete. Students receive a certificate or an associate's degree upon graduation and are prepared for entry-level laboratory jobs. Programs tailored for histotechnologists are available at the bachelor's degree and postbaccalaureate certificate levels. In addition to learning to prep and stain tissues for analysis, prospective histotechnologists in formal programs learn to test tissue samples using a variety of methods. A clinical internship and research projects may be included in the histotechnologist curriculum. Common course subjects include the following:
- Light microscopy
- Frozen sections
- Hemostatic systems
List of Common Histology Courses
Histology Laboratory Survey Course
Laboratory work is the foundation of histology and involves much more than working at a microscope. This class is taught at the start of histology programs to provide a framework for the training that follows. Lab protocols are especially important and include infection control, sharps safety and precise documentation. Another focus of the course is management and organization of the laboratory.
Histology Techniques Courses
Both histology technicians and technologists must learn the fundamentals of preparing tissue slides for examination by pathologists. Usually covered through two courses, histology techniques include the steps needed to process, embed and fix tissue samples onto slides. In addition to lectures, classes include lab time so that students may practice using instruments and staining techniques for creating slides.
Identification of Tissues Course
Armed with a basic understanding of the lab environment and techniques, students in this class learn to differentiate and identify tissue sources by examining their cellular structures. Knowledge of the functions of healthy muscle, nerve and connective tissue helps form a baseline for exploring tissue pathologies later in the program.
Chemistry and Techniques of Staining Courses
Once students have mastered tissue slide preparation using fixation and freezing techniques, they learn staining processes to highlight various tissue components. Chemical staining is often covered through a series of interrelated courses; theory is covered, followed by practice in staining cytoplasmic and nuclear cell structures, as well as other tissue components.
Cellular and Immunohistochemical Staining Techniques Course
This high-level course for prospective histotechnologists delves into the role of histology in diagnosing tissue pathologies. Abnormal structures and pathologic organisms are identified and compared to normal tissues as students learn the advanced processes of immunohistochemical and histochemical staining. Lab work presents opportunities to practice using microtomes, electron microscopes and other specialized instruments.