Degrees in Laboratory Technology: Program Overviews by Level

Laboratory technology programs provide students with theoretical and practical knowledge. People interested in working in this field may decide to pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in medical or clinical technology.

Essential Information

Laboratory technologists use medical analysis machines to help medical personnel detect diseases and prepare treatments. Students in a 2-year associate degree program learn to operate and maintain medical diagnostic equipment used to analyze patients' symptoms. With a 4-year bachelor's degree, graduates are able to branch off of the medical technology field and specialize in more focused studies and research into blood, tissue, cells, and other parts of the body all with the goal to prevent and treat disease. Program graduates may find jobs at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, crime labs, research facilities or a number of other related positions.

Prerequisites for these programs include completion of basic chemistry and biology classes. Students usually must receive a physical, have current immunizations including a hepatitis B vaccination. Liability insurance may be required.

Most programs require completion of an internship.


Associate's Degree in Laboratory Technology

An associate's degree in laboratory technology prepares students to assist physicians and other medical personnel in illness detection and treatment. Most programs provide internship opportunities at local hospitals and clinics. Program graduates will be prepared to take state certification exams. Beyond learning medical technology, most laboratory technology classes teach students the medical principles behind the technology they use. Once students understand these principles, they are better able to interpret the technology's findings. Some common subjects studied include:

  • Bio and clinical chemistry
  • Human anatomy
  • Patient psychology
  • Blood and urine analysis
  • Technological analysis machines

Bachelor's Degree in Laboratory Technology

Bachelor of Science candidates in this field are, in many cases, those who chose to continue their laboratory technology studies after receiving their associate's degrees. At the bachelor's degree level, students continue studying the human body and its fluids, but add more in-depth studies into infectious agents. Enrollees also continue practicing with patients and may add studies in running a lab.

Most programs require students to have a background in physiology and biology, whether through an associate's degree program or as part of an underclass curriculum. Some schools require students have medical, liability, and malpractice insurance at some point. Bachelor's degree studies focus on the science behind human fluid analysis, diseases, and infections. Some common laboratory technology classes include:

  • Virology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Humans and harmful fungi
  • Parasites and the human body
  • Lab management

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Those who've earned an associate's degree in laboratory technology often become laboratory technicians. These individuals worked for doctors of medicine, dentistry and optometry, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and those earning the degree should have ample opportunities to find work (www.bls.gov). In 2015, ophthalmic and dental lab technicians made median annual salaries of $29,860 and $37,190, respectively. Medical and clinical lab technicians made a median annual salary of $38,970 in the same year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects this field to grow much faster than average, due to an increase in the aging population. Employment is expected to increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the median income for medical and clinical lab technologists was about $60,520 a year. The lowest-paid ten percent of employees made about $41,510 a year, while the highest-paid ten percent of earners made about $84,300 a year.

A laboratory technology program usually includes studying chemistry, virology, and lab management, among other topics. Students who complete one of these programs may find work as laboratory technicians or technologists.


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