Clinical laboratory technician training certificates and associate's degree programs teach students to carry out various tests on tissue, blood and other bodily fluid samples. These technicians are an integral part of a health care team working with doctors to diagnose and treat illness and disease. A certificate program usually prepares graduates for entry-level training, while an associate's degree program typically has more advanced coursework. A high school diploma or GED, and a background in biology and chemistry are generally required for admission. Internships may be necessary for graduation.
Certificate in Clinical Laboratory Technician
A typical certificate program provides entry-level training with coursework and clinical training that covers basic laboratory tests, safety procedures, documentation and methods for analyzing test results. Students in this type of program will learn to perform tests used in blood banking, hematology and urinalysis, among other areas. In addition, they learn how to collect blood (phlebotomy) and cut tissue (histotechnician). Courses are usually focused on developing laboratory skills and learning to analyze specimens. Most programs also include clinical experience. Classes may include:
- Clinical lab
- Serology and immunology
- Computer basics
Associate of Clinical Laboratory Technology
Associate's degree programs are much more common than certificate programs. General education coursework is offered in addition to the clinical and class training needed. An associate's degree program may also have more advanced coursework in phlebotomy, blood banking and hematology. In some programs, the phlebotomy coursework may qualify students for a certificate as a phlebotomist, allowing him or her to become certified. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences is the usual accrediting agency for associate degree programs. Associate's degree programs usually include general education along with a variety of science-related coursework to prepare students for work in a lab. Classes may include:
- Basic and advanced hematology
- Blood bank
- Basic lab skills
- Clinical microbiology
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an associate's degree program for clinical laboratory technicians can work in laboratories doing general testing on tissue and fluid; they also may be able to specialize. Some potential job titles are:
- Phlebotomy technician
- Clinical laboratory consultant
- Lab assistant
- Hematology lab assistant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts an 18% job growth for medical and clinical technicians in the years 2014 through 2024. These workers earned $38,970 as a median annual salary in May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Several states require laboratory workers to be registered and licensed, but the requirements vary from state to state. Although it is voluntary, many employers prefer that their clinical laboratory technicians have certification from a professional organization. Certifying organizations include the American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Medical Technologists and the American Association of Bioanalysts. Eligibility requirements vary, but typically involve finishing a degree or training program, having a certain amount of work experience and passing an exam. The National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel recently joined with the American Society for Clinical Pathology to form a unified credentialing agency.
Some schools offer advanced certificates for individuals who already have an associate's degree and are looking to sharpen their skills. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences is the usual accrediting agency for these types of programs, which may also be available through hospitals.
Many related bachelor's degree programs are available for those who aspire to advance in the field to become medical or clinical technologists. In many cases, associate's degree coursework can be transferred into a bachelor's degree program. Advancing to laboratory director or manager typically requires at least a master's degree.
Clinical laboratory technician associate's and certificate programs prepare students for the field, as they take courses covering necessary topics, such as the analysis of urine and blood. They also learn how to use laboratory computers, equipment and technology.