Lab Technician: How Do I Become a Laboratory Tech?

Learn how to become a lab technician. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the medical field.

Should I Become a Lab Technician?

Laboratory technicians collect, examine and test body fluids, tissue cells and other substances. These technicians typically perform their job duties under the guidance of laboratory technologists or laboratory managers. They may work at hospitals, medical laboratories, physician offices and university labs. Many lab technicians spend most of their work shifts on their feet, and they may need to work overnight if their labs run around the clock. Although these workers often deal with toxic materials, very little risk of infection exists.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Certificate program or associate's degree
Degree Field Medical Laboratory Technician
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in some states; voluntary certification is available through the American Medical Technologists (AMT)
Key Skills Compassion, dexterity, stamina, detail-oriented, accounting, spreadsheet and medical software; ability to operate complex machinery such as laboratory equipment
Salary $40,750 per year (2014 average for all Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mount Aloysius College, American Medical Technologists, ONET Online, NYSED

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree or Certificate

Medical laboratory technician associate's degree programs combine science courses, liberal arts studies and clinical instruction. Students may study topics such as biology, laboratory procedures and hematology. During clinical rotations, students receive practical experience and work with certified laboratory personnel. Individuals who already have a degree in a related field can often complete 1-year certificate programs, offered by hospitals or vocational schools, rather than associate's degree programs.

Success Tip:

  • Meet health requirements. Postsecondary programs could require students to submit a medical history, pass a physical examination and show proof of immunization.

Step 2: Obtain Certification and/or Licensure

Many employers prefer to hire lab technicians who have earned certification by a recognized professional association, such as the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Certification applicants must meet education requirements that typically entail earning an associate's degree in medical laboratory technician, completing training or earning postsecondary credits in subjects related to the clinical laboratory sciences. Candidates must also pass the AMT certification exam. Some states require licensure of technicians and laboratory personnel. Licensure requirements vary by state and are available from state health departments.

Success Tip:

  • Keep your certification current. To maintain AMT certification, individuals can participate in the Certification Continuation Program (CCP) to earn continuing education (CE) credits.

Step 3: Seek Opportunities for Career Advancement

If a laboratory technician wishes to advance their career, they can pursue supplementary education, licensure, and certification. These, in addition to more work experience, can allow for a laboratory technician to specialize in a particular area of science and broaden opportunities for employment.

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