Cytogenetic Technician Overview
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Biology, chemistry, medical technology, cytotechnology|
|Certification||Certification required by some employers|
|Experience||1 year of experience typically required|
|Key Skills||Project management, analytical or scientific, database, and query software; ability to set up and operate complex laboratory equipment including fluorescent microscopes, dropping pipettes, microscope slide racks, and DNA sequence analyzers|
|Salary||$61,860 (2015 average for all clinical and medical technologists)|
Sources: Job postings by employers (November 2012), O*Net OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cytogenetics involves the study of chromosomes associated with various conditions, such as mental retardation, birth defects, infertility, cancer and miscarriage. Cytogenetic technicians, more commonly referred to as cytogenetic technologists, analyze the structure of chromosomes found in various biological specimens and their relationship to a variety of diseases. These professionals can find employment in private medical laboratories, research facilities and hospital laboratories. Those working in labs that are open around the clock may need to work weekends or nights.
Cytogenetic technicians should be able to use project management, analytical and scientific, and database and query software. They should also be able to set up and operate complex laboratory equipment, including fluorescent microscopes, dropping pipettes, microscope slide racks and DNA sequence analyzers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, clinical and medical technologists - which includes cytogenetic technicians - earned a mean annual salary of $61,860 as of May 2015.
Let's look at the steps you can take to become a cytogenetic technician.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree in cytotechnology, medical technology, biology, chemistry or a related field is generally required for this career. Student in these degree programs can expect to take courses in cellular biology, hematology, biochemistry, genetics, immunology and laboratory safety. Many of these programs also contain a clinical aspect in which the student is able to gain hands-on experience while working under the supervision of a clinical instructor. These experiences can take place in a laboratory or hospital setting.
Aspiring cytogenetic technicians can also use their time in school to get relevant experience. Experience is highly regarded by many employers in the field. Participating in research projects and independent study courses are two ways to gain experience. Individuals can also undertake an internship or find part-time employment in a laboratory or research setting to gain the necessary experience and skills.
Step 2: Become Certified
Many employers prefer to hire cytogenetic technicians who have achieved certification. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers a voluntary certification examination for becoming a Technologist in Cytogenetics (CG). Individuals must hold at least a bachelor's degree and, in some cases, meet experience requirements.
The ASCP also offers a certification exam for cytotechnologists (CT). To be eligible for this certification exam, one must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and have graduated from an accredited cytotechnology program within the previous five years.
Step 3: Maintain Certification
CG and CT certifications last for three years. During this three-year period, one must take a variety of educational courses to obtain 36 total points. At least one point must be related to safety, and at least two points must be in the area in which the individual is certified. The remaining points can be taken in the specialty area, education, management and other related areas of interest.
In summary, cytogenetic technicians, more commonly referred to as cytogenetic technologists, need a bachelor's degree and relevant experience. Voluntary certification is preferred by many employers.