Lasting two years, the associate's degree program could prepare students to become entry-level clinical laboratory technicians. It offers an introduction to the discipline and features basic courses in anatomy, biochemistry and other subjects. An internship experience might be included.
A 4-year bachelor's degree program involves clinical research and rotations. This level of study teaches aspiring medical technologists to conduct laboratory tests and analyze bodily tissues. Consisting of clinical chemistry and immunology coursework, a master's-level program might offer areas of concentration and could include a thesis requirement. Graduates might go on to become directors, supervisors or researchers.
Associate of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science
An associate's degree is the minimum educational degree available for aspiring clinical laboratory technicians. Such programs typically contain three to four semesters of didactic classroom lectures as well as a required clinical internship or laboratory component. Students enrolled in an associate's degree program gain an introduction to clinical laboratory science and learn the basic concepts of microbiology, hematology and human fluid analysis. They also learn how to perform basic clinical and diagnostic tests in a laboratory setting.
Students interested in enrolling in a clinical laboratory science associate's degree program should have completed high school courses in chemistry, biology, English and algebra. A high school diploma and GPA of at least 2.5 are also standard.
Core courses are very similar to courses found within a baccalaureate degree program in the field. Students in an associate's degree program often have fewer general education and theoretical course requirements. Some example course topics include anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and hematology, in addition to the following:
- Introduction to clinical laboratory sciences
- Laboratory safety procedures
- Laboratory analysis
Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science
Clinical laboratory science programs are typically offered through universities or medical centers. They are designed to provide students with the educational background and practical training necessary to perform laboratory testing in medical and clinical research facilities. They should also prepare students to sit for national clinical laboratory science and medical technologist certification examinations.
Students learn how to analyze blood, urine and other human tissues samples for the purposes of diagnosing illness, determining disease or furthering clinical research in a particular aspect of the medical field. They are often required to complete a clinical rotation at a medical facility in addition to completing laboratory and lecture credits.
Schools offering degree programs in clinical laboratory science may only accept incoming freshmen who hold a high school diploma and strong scores from standardized tests, such as the ACT or SAT. High school students interested in the major should consider completing courses in biology, mathematics, chemistry and laboratory science.
Clinical laboratory science bachelor's degree programs often consist of classroom lectures focusing on the theories of natural science as well as laboratory experiences focusing on practical lab techniques. Courses may include clinical chemistry, microbiology, and human fluid analysis in addition to the following:
- Principles of clinical laboratory science
- Clinical hematology
- Clinical immunology
- Clinical laboratory management
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Master of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science
Graduate programs in clinical laboratory science are often available for laboratory technologists who are interested in furthering research or specializing in a particular aspect of the field. Students are often required to select a concentration, such as clinical research, biochemistry, clinical administration and management, health informatics and public health laboratory sciences. Many of the programs can be offered in either a thesis or a non-thesis version.
A baccalaureate degree in clinical laboratory science, biology or a similar field is a prerequisite for gaining admission into a graduate program in laboratory science. A school may also require incoming students to hold certification in laboratory science from an established organization.
Courses included in a master's degree program in clinical laboratory science often vary based upon each student's chosen specialization in the subject. Common core seminar classes might include virology, bacteriology, immunohematology and clinical laboratory management in addition to the following:
- Quality assurance in a clinical laboratory
- Clinical chemistry
- Clinical immunology
- Current issues for clinical laboratory professionals
Popular Career Options
Clinical laboratory scientists and medical technologists are in demand in a variety of clinical and research-based professions. They may be employed by the following organizations:
- Hospitals and healthcare facilities
- Diagnostic medical testing facilities
- Forensic laboratories
- University research clinics
- Pharmaceutical laboratories
Most individuals who enter a graduate degree program in clinical laboratory science already have experience working within a clinical research or diagnostic lab. Upon graduating, they make take positions as:
- Laboratory director
- Chief clinical laboratory technologist
- Hospital laboratory supervisor
- Clinical researcher
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and physicians' offices employed roughly 115,940 medical and clinical laboratory technicians in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Medical and clinical lab technicians earned a median yearly salary of $38,970 in 2015.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers national certification for clinical laboratory scientists, medical technicians and medical technologists. Individuals must pass an examination in order to earn the Medical Technologist (ASCP) or Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCP) credential. Certification in the field might not be required, but it is often preferred by employers.
Studies in clinical laboratory science are available to students at associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. Graduates will also be required to pass a professional ASCP examination in order to be certified.