Certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs in medical laboratory technology provide classroom and lab training in testing and analyzing biological samples. Supervised internships in healthcare facilities are also part of most program. School training covers how to perform a bio-fluid examination, diagnose patients and use current medical technology.
Admission to these degree programs requires CPR certification and a background in science. Graduates of associate's programs are eligible to test for certification as a medical technician, while graduates of bachelor's programs can qualify for the medical laboratory technologist certification exam.
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Laboratory Technology
In this program, students spend about two years preparing for entry-level positions in a medical laboratory. Degree recipients may choose to work at public or private hospitals, clinics and laboratories. They are also qualified to sit for the certification exam given by the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Medical technicians must work under a pathologist's supervision. These programs require studies in chemistry, biology and serology. Students usually perform a practicum or internship before graduation. Common classes discuss:
- Medical vocabulary
- Lab technology
- Lab procedures and safety
- Patient psychology
Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology
The program trains students to work in medical laboratories and use diagnostic equipment to test biological samples and interpret the results. Students receive hands-on experience at local clinics and hospitals. Medical technicians or technologists work closely with healthcare professionals to ensure that a patient is properly diagnosed and treated; therefore, communication skills and medical terminology are emphasized in training programs. The programs can prepare candidates for medical technician certification from the ASCP; they may also be used as the first step toward a medical doctorate. Academic topics cover biochemistry, medical technology, genetics and physiology. Students must spend a yearlong practicum at a local healthcare facility. Common class topics are:
- Diagnostic equipment
- Sample analysis
- Medical calculation
- Human anatomy
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the medical and clinical technician and technologist field is expected to grow by 16% overall between 2014 and 2024, which is above the average growth for all occupations. Jobs for technicians should grow by 18%, while technologist employment was predicted to increase by 14%. The BLS attributes the increases to the need for medical services by an increasing and aging population.
Medical and clinical laboratory technicians earned a median annual salary of $38,970 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). On the other hand, medical laboratory technologists, who usually are required to have bachelor's degrees, earned a median salary of $60,520, at that same time, according to the BLS.
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Laboratory Technology programs prepare students for the ASCP certification exam and to become certified medical technicians, while those who seek an advanced career as a medical technologist may seek Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology.