Medical lab technician courses taken at community colleges and technical schools generally lead to an Associate of Applied Science degree or a certificate. While a certificate program in the field generally requires a completed associate's or bachelor's degree with science coursework, an associate's program is suitable for first-time college students.
Much of the coursework in both kinds of programs is laboratory-based, and students usually complete multiple clinical practica. Students learn about procedures for diagnostic testing in a laboratory and learn to identify and analyze substances, blood and microorganisms using common instruments found in a laboratory. Associate's degree programs include a large number of science courses, including those in chemistry, human biology, organic chemistry and cellular biology. Certificate programs normally exclude this general education coursework.
Graduates of these programs may pursue licensure or certification, which is required to work as a medical laboratory technician in some states. Individuals can pursue general certification as a technician or choose a specialty.
There are many major concepts covered in medical lab technician programs, including:
- Basic laboratory procedures
- Medical technology
Overview of Courses
Clinical Chemistry Course
Students in this lecture and laboratory course gain experience in laboratory procedures, while learning to analyze various substances, including electrolytes, glucose and enzymes. Future lab technicians become comfortable with instruments, including a spectrophotometer, and learn theory, procedures, clinical applications and laboratory mathematics. Other topics include quality control, testing procedures, clinical correlation and sources of error.
This class instructs students in the core practices and concepts of clinical bacteriology. Coursework covers identification of pathogenic microorganisms and their disease processes. Molecular diagnostic testing and laboratory procedures will be covered, focusing on the bacteriological families of Streptococcaceae, Micrococcaceae and Neisseriaceae. Curriculum may also cover aerobic and anaerobic spore-formers, non-fermentative gram negative rods, Enterobacteriaceae, coccobacilli, Bacteroidaceae and Mycobacteria.
Clinical Hematology Course
This course focuses on knowledge of hematology and laboratory proficiency. Students study the formation of various hematologic disorders, including leukemias and anemias. The laboratory portion of the class provides instruction about procedures in automated, semi-automated and manual blood cell counts. Also addressed are staining techniques and differential morphology, hemoglobin and hematocrit procedures and coagulation procedures.
Medical Microbiology Course
Students learn identification and taxonomy of microorganisms. Topics include metabolism and genetics, microbial morphology, basic immunology, cultural characteristics and theory of disease process. Students also learn about the subject of microbiology as applied to food and water. The course is taught using labs and lectures. Other areas of instruction may include parasitology and a clinical investigation into human pathogenic microorganisms.