Very strong predicted job growth makes this an excellent time to pursue a career as a medical laboratory technician. These positions involve working in a clinical setting to conduct lab tests and procedures, and are obtainable after a certificate or associate's degree program and on-the-job-training. If you have an acute attention to detail and are interested in science and medicine, this might be the right career for you.
Medical lab technicians conduct lab tests and procedures, usually under the supervision of more experienced professionals. Duties may include matching blood for transfusions, counting white blood cells, and determining the concentration of prescription drugs in a patient's blood sample. Most are trained through certificate or associate's degree programs offered by community colleges and vocational schools. These programs generally require a year or two to complete and include classroom work, labs and practical training. Graduates may be eligible to apply for certification from professional organizations.
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree program in medical laboratory sciences|
|Other Requirements||Optional certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||18% for medical and clinical laboratory technicians|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$38,970 for medical and clinical laboratory technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Educational Requirements for a Medical Lab Technician
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that medical lab technicians may be trained on the job, the Bureau also reports that most receive formal education through a certificate or associate's degree program (www.bls.gov). The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) approves these educational programs, which are generally offered by junior colleges and vocational schools (www.naacls.org). Those who complete these programs generally go on to work for healthcare laboratory facilities.
Admissions for Postsecondary Programs
Prospective candidates must earn their high school diploma or its equivalent prior to applying. Some programs recommend that applicants complete mathematics and science courses while in high school. This may include algebra, biology and chemistry.
While certificate programs in medical laboratory sciences generally last one year, associate's degree programs may take 1-2 years to complete. Both programs typically begin by introducing students to medical laboratory equipment and data analysis. Students may also be required to take sequences of courses in histology, microbiology and biochemistry. These classes may delve into topics ranging from cell tissues to parasites and viruses.
In addition, programs might explore topics in phlebotomy, hematology and immune hematology. Students may learn techniques for examining bodily fluids and using lab equipment to search for problems with samples. Programs also include clinical practicums, which may include on-the-job training in urinalysis and mycology.
Once training is complete, students are eligible to earn certifications offered by credentialing organizations, such as the American Medical Technologists and the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Certification generally requires passing a qualifying examination. Credentialing organizations may provide exam preparation material via their websites. Once certified, these professionals may need to complete continuing education requirements.
Employment Projections and Salary
The BLS reports that medical and clinical laboratory technicians earned a median annual salary of $38,970 in May, 2015 and employment opportunities for these technicians are expected to increase by 18% from 2014-2024. This much-faster-than-average job growth was attributed to the need for diagnostic services among the country's growing elderly population.
Medical laboratory technicians work in clinical environments and conduct necessary lab procedures such as blood work. Qualifications for this career typically include a 1-2 year training program and fulfillment of the certification requirements.