Whether you are interested in becoming a health information technician, a laboratory technician, or a pharmacist technician, all three positions provide support to hospitals. They may be responsible for managing drug inventories and distributing medication, managing health records, or processing lab samples. The minimum education requirement for these careers vary from a postsecondary certificate to an associate's degree.
Hospitals depend on several types of technicians to assist doctors, nurses, pharmacists and administrators. Common types of hospital technicians include health information technicians, laboratory technicians and pharmacist technicians. Respectively, they keep the hospital running by tracking patient records, helping conduct diagnostic tests and preparing medications.
|Career||Health Information Technician||Laboratory Technician||Pharmacy Technician|
|Education Requirements||Associate's degree||Associate's degree||High school diploma|
|Other Requirements||Certification may be required||Completion of a pharmacy technology training program|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||15% (for all medical records and health information technicians)*||18% (for all medical and clinical laboratory technicians)*||9%*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$40,430 annually*||$41,420 annually*||$31,680 annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A number of careers are open to hospital technicians, and education requirements for each vary by job. Health Information Technicians, Laboratory Technicians, and Pharmacy Technicians are detailed below.
Health Information Technician
This type of hospital technician helps physicians keep track of their patients' health care records, medical history and insurance information. Health information technicians use specialized software and coding systems to keep track of diagnoses, medical procedures and prescriptions, as well as calculate costs to the hospital and insurance companies.
An Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology or Associate of Applied Science in Health Services Administration from an accredited school is usually the minimum education requirement to become a health information technician. Health information technology programs include courses in medical terminology, anatomy, physiology and common pathologies. In addition, students take courses in typing, health care coding and health care computing systems. Some employers want candidates to be certified as a Registered Health Information Technician, a title conferred by the American Health Information Management Association upon passing an examination.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth for this field to be faster than the national average, 15% from 2014 through 2024, thanks to the need for increased organization and management of health records due to the rise in medical patients (www.bls.gov). The average salary for health information technicians was $40,430 per year as of 2015.
Hospitals need laboratory technicians to assist the lab manager in preparing and conducting tests that doctors depend on to make diagnoses and plan treatment for their patients. These hospital technicians prepare lab samples for testing and operate equipment like centrifuges, refrigerators and incubators. Sometimes they conduct simple tests themselves.
To become a lab technician, one must typically earn an associate's degree, such as an Associate of Science in Medical Laboratory Technology, through a program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Students in the degree programs learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, phlebotomy and medical terminology. Students are often required to work in the lab under supervision to gain hands-on experience. It's possible to achieve professional certification after completing a program from an organization such as the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel or Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Hospitals are the largest employer of clinical lab technicians. Given the constant and increasing need for medical care as the population continues to expand, in the coming years there should be more job opportunities for lab technicians than there are applicants. Clinical laboratory technician and technologist job positions are projected to increase 18% from 2014-2024, says the BLS. The average annual salary for laboratory technicians in May 2015 was $41,420.
Hospitals often employ pharmacy technicians in on-site pharmacies to assist pharmacists in preparing medications, labeling prescriptions, keeping inventory and answering questions from patients. Pharmacy technicians are often required to work nights and weekends in order to be able to respond to emergencies.
Employers look for pharmacy technicians who hold a high school degree and have completed a formal pharmacy technology training program, preferably one accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. These programs can take between six months and two years to complete and include courses in medicine dosage and treatment, medical terminology, pharmaceutical terminology and record keeping.
Demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to increase by 9% between 2014 and 2024, claims the BLS, making this a fast-growing occupation. Hospitals are the largest employers of pharmacy technicians. According to the BLS, the average salary for these professionals in 2015 was $31,680.
The demand for each type of hospital technician is expected to grow strongly over the next decade. The average annual salaries for the health information, laboratory and pharmacy technician range between around $30,000 - $42,000. Each field is relatively easy to enter as only a postsecondary award or associate's degree is needed to begin, depending on which job interests you.