The majority of the curriculum in a cytogenetic technology certificate program includes didactic classroom lectures and clinical laboratory experience in which students spend supervised hours learning to perform chromosome analysis, molecular cytogenetics techniques, and specimen harvesting. These programs are open to senior-level undergraduate students or students who have earned a bachelor's degree that covers biology, molecular genetics, chemistry, algebra, and clinical laboratory science. Certificate programs generally last 9 months. Prospective students are required to pass a drug test, a background test, and provide a record of immunizations. Graduates can opt to take the examination for professional certification, which may make them more attractive to employers.
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Cytogenetic Technology Certificate Programs
Students explore basic principles of cytogenetics, types of congenital disorders that cytogenetics can detect and legal issues related to cytogenetics. They also learn to perform the day-to-day tasks of a laboratory technologist specializing in cytogenetics, such as preparing slides for analysis and testing, culturing cells and analyzing cells to detect abnormalities. Classroom lectures typically cover the following topics:
- Introduction to cytogenetics
- Congenital disorders
- Prenatal cytogenetics
- Analytical cytogenetics
- Fluorescent in situ DNA probes
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data specifically regarding cytogenetic technologists, also known as cytotechnologists. It did report, however, that medical and clinical laboratory technologists held 164,800 positions in 2014 (www.bls.gov). Jobs for medical and clinical lab technologists were projected to increase 14% between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, medical and clinical laboratory technologists earned an annual median salary of $60,520, according to the BLS. According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), staff-level cytotechnologists earned an average of $31.45 per hour in 2013 (www.ascp.org). Those who served as lead employees earned $35.20 per hour, and those in supervisory positions earned approximately $37.09 per hour.
Certification and Continuing Education
The National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCALP) offers a certification examination for cytogenetic technologists. Individuals who have completed a certificate program in the field should have the educational requirements necessary to sit for the test. The ASCP also offers a certification examination in the field.
Graduates from a certificate program in cytogenetic technology can go on to gain entry-level employment in this fast-growing field after passing certification exams through the NCALP or ASCP.