How to Become a Clinical Lab Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a clinical lab technician. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career in clinical laboratory technology. View article »

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  • 0:00 Clinical Lab Technician
  • 1:17 Earn An Associate's Degree
  • 2:08 Obtain Licensure
  • 2:51 Join a Professional…

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Video Transcript

Clinical Lab Technician Overview

Degree Level Associate's degree
Degree Field Medical or clinical laboratory technology
Licensure Licensure required for technicians in some states
Experience None for entry-level positions
Key Skills Detail-oriented; compassionate when working with patients; expertise with microscopes and computerized instruments; good manual dexterity, ability to lift patients, and stand for long periods of time; ability to stay on schedule
Salary $41,420 (2015 average for medical and clinical laboratory technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Clinical lab technicians work in laboratory settings and are responsible for analyzing body fluids and tissues to determine any abnormalities. In addition to operating cell counters and microscopes, technicians may collect blood samples to identify cells or compare blood types.

Work opportunities are available at hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and physician offices. Since many labs are open 24 hours a day, technicians may have to work evenings or late nights. Although these professionals work with a variety of infectious materials, chances of exposure are minimal.

Clinical lab technicians should be detail-oriented as well as compassionate when working with patients in need of medical attention. They should have expertise with microscopes and computerized instruments, and good manual dexterity in order to take precise measurements. They also should be able to lift patients, stand for long periods of time, and stay on schedule. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that medical and clinical laboratory technicians earned a mean annual salary of $41,420 as of May 2015.

Let's examine the steps required to become a clinical lab technician.

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree in Medical Laboratory Technology

Medical laboratory technology programs at the associate's degree level can teach students to perform tests and analyze body fluids and tissues. Common topics in these programs include blood banking, urinalysis, microbiology, blood coagulation, parasitology, and hematology. Students typically have the opportunity to participate in laboratory work.

An internship may be required in an associate's degree program, but even if it isn't, students should try to complete an internship or practicum in a professional lab setting. In these positions, students work under the supervision of a medical lab technician and might develop their abilities to test bodily samples, administer blood cell counts, and prepare blood samples.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure

Licensure requirements vary by state, and graduates with an associate's degree should contact their state board of health to determine specific licensing requirements. In many cases, applicants need to be at least 18 years old, meet formal education requirements, and pass an examination.

Some states, such as New York, tie in licensing with certification and require that applicants pass the Medical Laboratory Technician exam offered through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification. To take the test, students must have an associate's degree, meet certain experience requirements, and pay an exam fee.

Step 3: Join a Professional Organization

Aspiring clinical lab technicians should consider joining a professional organization, such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology, which offers several types of continuing education opportunities to ensure that certified technicians are aware of the latest developments in the field. Technicians can take online courses and view webcasts. In addition to continuing education, ASCP offers its members access to professional listings, job leads, networking opportunities, industry-related events, and other resources for professional growth and advancement.

In summary, clinical lab technicians need an associate's degree and experience gained through an internship or practicum. They also need to attain licensure or certification based on their state's requirements.

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