Job Description and Salary Info
|Degree Level||Associate's degree; bachelor's often preferred|
|Degree Field(s)||Medical technology|
|License/Certification||Voluntary certification available|
|Experience||Practicum or internship common in most programs|
|Key Skills||Basic knowledge of pathology, specialized laboratory equipment, and staining techniques; attention to detail|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||16% growth|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$60,520|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A histology applications specialist, or histological technician, specializes in working with and preparing microscopic tissue samples. Histological technicians work in a variety of laboratory settings, from medical centers to veterinary clinics. Histological technicians typically need at least an associate's degree, though some employers may prefer applicants with more education. An optional certification is also available.
Histology applications specialists, more commonly called histological technicians, usually work in the pathology laboratory of a medical hospital, research institution, or veterinary clinic. Working with tissue samples from humans, plants, or animals, histological technicians prepare slides for examination under a microscope. They must have a basic knowledge of pathology as well as knowledge of specialized laboratory equipment and staining techniques. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2015 medical and clinical laboratory technician earned a median salary of $60,520. Projected job growth was 16% for 2014-2024, which is faster than average.
Under the supervision of laboratory technologists or physicians, histology technicians freeze and cut thin tissue samples to analyze under a microscope. They secure the slice sample on a slide and use specialized dyes to stain it, bringing out cellular structures and allowing pathologists, physicians, or research scientists to identify abnormal cells and monitor cell function. Histology technicians must also be familiar with many types of lab equipment and monitor it for signs of disrepair.
As most of the work is lab-based, histological technicians need some education or training beyond high school to become familiar with both the terminology and equipment they'll use. Samples are small and accuracy is important, so students interested in becoming a histological technician would benefit from having good attention to detail, an interest in science, and enjoyment working as part of a lab team.
Most employers require that entry-level histology technicians have at least an associate's degree from a technical or community college; however, many favor those with a bachelor's degree in medical technology. Students can expect to take courses in pathology, biology, medical terminology, histology, and histotechnology. Most programs also include an internship or practicum so students can experience the tasks required of a histology technician in the lab, as well as gain familiarity with the equipment.
Histology technicians aren't nationally mandated to be certified as of November 2010, although many employers prefer to hire applicants who've taken this extra step. After earning an associate's degree through a histotechnician program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (wwwnaacls.org), histology technicians qualify to become certified through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (www.ascp.org).
In summary, histology technicians prep microscope tissue samples, work in a variety of health settings, and may need an associate's degree, bachelor's degree, or certification to be competitive.