The histotechnology training program most commonly available is the 2-year Associate of Applied Science in Histotechnology, although a few bachelor's and master's degree programs do exist. Associate's degree program participants explore introductory-level topics through classroom and clinical experiences. They learn to properly handle samples while preparing for entry-level employment.
When offered at the bachelor's degree level, programs may feature pre-professional courses and clinical rotations as well as areas of concentration. Master's programs offer advanced education that prepares students for positions in management, and they may include a practicum. Online courses and programs are available.
For admissions, both associate's and bachelor's degrees require a GED or high school diploma. Bachelor's degree programs may require basic medical lab skills as well as immunizations, physical exam, background check and drug screening, along with OSHA and CPR training. Master's programs require a bachelor's degree in a related field and submission of GRE scores.
Associate of Applied Science in Histotechnology
Students enrolled in such a program are expected to gain an understanding of medical terminology, healthcare procedures and healthcare ethics to prepare them for lifelong careers in the medical field. They also study the scientific cornerstones of the histology field, including human cells, body systems and tissue samples.
Students enrolled in a histotechnology degree program learn technical sample-handling procedures in the classroom and in the laboratory. They are also expected to complete clinical training, which should prepare them to gain certification and actual positions in medical laboratories.
An associate's degree program in histotechnology includes courses that cover both general medical and healthcare topics as well as specific histology topics. Some of these include:
- Human anatomy
- General chemistry
- Medical terminology
- Histology and histochemistry
- Clinical training and laboratory procedures
Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science, Histotechnology Emphasis
While an associate's degree is the only educational requirement necessary to become a histotechnician, aspiring histotechnologists must typically earn a bachelor's degree. Such programs often consist of at least two years of pre-professional courses, two years of core histotechnology courses and clinical laboratory experiences.
Students taking the histotechnology curriculum take classes and labs during the first year. The second year concentrates on complex procedures integrated with clinical rotations, where students use their learned knowledge under supervision. Courses may include:
- Histologic techniques and principles
- Laboratory management
- Staining techniques for histotechnologists
- Educational research
Master of Science in Histotechnology
Some universities offer graduate programs in histotechnology that are designed to provide advanced training in a shortened span of time. Students enrolled in a 1-year master's degree program in histotechnology gain the skills and training necessary to work as histotechnologists under the supervision of licensed pathologists. In addition to laboratory and clinical courses, master's programs in histotechnology also offer courses related to laboratory leadership and management.
Students may be required to write a paper on an issue in the field or a new technique that uses the skills and knowledge acquired through taking courses. In addition, students must complete a practicum. Courses may include the following:
- Medical ethics
- Laboratory management
- Advanced histotechnology
- Histotechnology and anatomy
- Medical terminology
- Medical microbiology
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups histotechnologists and histotechnicians in the same category as medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians and reported that there was a combined total of 328,200 Americans working in such positions in 2014. The majority of these individuals worked for general medical and surgical hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and physicians' offices. Medical and clinical lab technicians earned a median annual wage of $38,970 in May 2015.
Histotechnologists are required to have a bachelor's degree in addition to at least one year of experience in a clinical laboratory environment before they can gain certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Medical and clinical lab technologists earned a median wage of $60,520 in May 2015, per the BLS.
Graduates of a master's degree program in histotechnology have the same employment opportunities as graduates of a 4-year bachelor's degree program in the field. They are eligible to gain certification and employment as histotechnologists in hospitals or healthcare facilities across the country.
The American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers certification for histotechnicians. To gain certification, individuals must have at least 60 hours of academic credit from an institution of higher learning and must prove their competence in laboratory procedures, compliance and immunohistochemistry. Individuals can gain more information on certification procedures through the National Society for Histochemistry.
Histotechnology training programs are available to prospective students at associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. Associate's programs can lead to work as a histotechnician, while bachelor's and master's programs are designed for aspiring histotechnologists. Graduates of these programs may also be eligible for voluntary certification.