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Histology Classes, Courses and Training Information

Histology technicians and technologists prepare samples of human, animal or plant tissue for analysis by pathologists. Many work in hospitals, laboratories and veterinary clinics, while others work in forensic laboratories or help with research. Most academic programs for histology technicians award a certificate, though a degree is sometimes an option.

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Essential Information

Although histology classes are also included in other health sciences programs, schools offer specific programs for histotechnicians, as well as more advanced histotechnologists, through targeted certificate, as well as associate's and bachelor's degree programs. Curricula involve 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.

List of Common Histology Courses

Below are some of the common courses found in programs for aspiring histology technicians and technologists.

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.

Histology Training Information

The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences accredits histology programs. Histology programs generally aim to prepare individuals to take the national certification examination for histotechnicians or histotechnologists offered by 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 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.

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