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Online Schools for Lab Techs: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online laboratory technician school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, delivery methods, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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Schools across the country offer online lab tech programs at the associate's and bachelor's degree level. This article covers a basic list of what you will learn in each degree, as well as the technical requirements of taking an online course.

How to Select an Online Lab Tech School

Students considering online lab tech schools must make their decision based on several key factors. Many colleges and universities offer online lab tech programs for students. A majority of the online associate's and bachelor's degree programs are hybrid, because while most coursework can be completed online, lab work is conducted at an off-site clinical facility or on-campus laboratory. Students also must consider their overall career outcome when narrowing down online lab tech program choices. Most online lab tech programs require students to submit health records before they can participate in lab work. Students must then weigh the technical requirements.

Award Level

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of clinical lab workers is expected to increase 22% during 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Those who obtain an associate's degree focusing on medical lab technology can seek employment as a drug testing coordinator, medical laboratory technician, pharmaceutical research assistant or quality control technician. Earning a bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory science allows students to strive for jobs as phlebotomists, medical technologists, histotechnicians and pathologist assistants.

Program Type

Students considering online lab tech schools should determine if the programs are available fully or partially online. Hybrid programs are most common and require students to complete their clinical practicum on-campus or through nearby clinical laboratories.

Technical Requirements

Students learn through online discussion forums, e-mail and instant messaging. In addition to Internet access, students may need to install computer applications such as Flash Player, Acrobat Reader, Shockwave Player, Media Player and QuickTime. Additionally, numerous programs may use Blackboard or other course management systems.

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List of Common Online Lab Tech Schools

Online Associate of Science in Medical Laboratory Technology

An online associate's degree program in medical laboratory technology teaches students about clinical lab procedures and how to operate equipment correctly. Most associate's degree programs are asynchronous and take two years to complete. These programs consist of online lectures, discussion forums and electronic bulletin boards. Courses typically include:

  • Chemistry
  • Blood banking
  • Hematology
  • Microbiology
  • Urinalysis

Online Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science

A distance learning bachelor's degree program in clinical laboratory science can be completed in 2-4 years; if students obtain an associate's degree in a related field, they can transfer the credits into a baccalaureate degree. Online courses discuss:

  • General microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Laboratory operations
  • Virology
  • Chemistry and biochemistry

Schools with Online Programs in Laboratory Technology

Weber State University has made their medical laboratory sciences bachelor's degree program available online. However, time with a mentor in a laboratory is required for completion of the program. Students with previous employment in a clinical laboratory may opt to apply work time to meet this requirement. On the plus side, some general education requirements for the degree may be met based on ACT or other test scores.

The University of Cincinnati also has a bachelor's degree program in medical laboratory science. This program is designed for professionals already holding an associate's degree and seek further education. Students can continue to work and study part-time, and graduates can take the Board of Certification (BOC) exam for the Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) credential. The capstone course for this program requires conducting a research project in a clinical laboratory. The public presentation of this project to faculty and peers must be completed in person.

Because of the hands-on nature of the coursework, many laboratory technology programs are offered as hybrid courses and/or require access to a laboratory. However, a few programs and refresher courses are available completely online.

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