How to Become a Clinical Technologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a clinical technologist. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in clinical technology. View article »

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Video Transcript

What Are Clinical Technologists?

Clinical technologists, also known as medical or clinical laboratory technologists, work in laboratory settings, performing tests and using medical technology to examine and diagnose diseases. Professionals in this field play an important role in the healthcare system by testing blood, fluid, and tissue samples.

Technologists may be employed in hospitals, clinics, laboratories, or by postsecondary schools. Pay in the medical field is generally good, and those that are able to secure government-paid positions will enjoy benefits and a measure of job security. The majority of such professionals work full-time, and those that serve in 24-hour care centers, like hospitals, may work evenings, nights, and/or weekends. Protective clothing and gear are required to keep technologists safe from infectious diseases and the chemicals and materials with which they work to process specimens.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Medical technology
Licensure and Certification Licensure required by some states; voluntary certifications helpful
Experience Internships
Key Skills Detail-oriented; manual dexterity and compassion; knowledge of how to operate laboratory equipment and machinery; ability to stand for long periods of time and lift or turn patients
Salary $60,520 (2015 median salary for medical and clinical laboratory technologists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Clinical technologists have bachelor's degrees in medical technology. They are expected to be detail-oriented professionals with compassion and manual dexterity and able to operate laboratory equipment and machinery, stand for long periods of time, and lift or turn patients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technologists, which include clinical technologists, was $60,520 in 2015.

Steps for Clinical Technologists

What do I need to do to become a clinical technologist?

Step 1: Enroll in a Bachelor's Degree Program

The minimum education requirement to become a clinical technologist is a bachelor's degree in medical technology or a life science. Education programs need to be accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Some classes to expect in a medical technology program include statistics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics.

Step 2: Complete an Internship

Clinical technologists usually need to complete an internship as part of their training requirements. An internship could be completed during the final year of a bachelor's degree program, or it could be completed the year after graduating from a bachelor's program. By working in an internship, not only can clinical technologists gain valuable experience, they can acquire work contacts that can lead to full-time positions after graduation. Most internship opportunities involve working as an assistant to a clinical technologist and performing hands-on and clerical work in a medical laboratory.

Step 3: Earn a State License

According to the BLS, some states require clinical technologists to have a state license in order to practice. The licensure requirements for clinical technologists vary by state. To find out a specific state's requirements, check with an occupational licensing board or a state department of health. The usual requirements for these licenses include earning a bachelor's degree and passing a state examination.

Step 4: Become Certified

Certifications are available from professional organizations such as the Board of Certification of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. While not always necessary, many employers look favorably upon applicants with a certification and it may lead to career advancement. Generally, an examination is required, along with a bachelor's degree and a combination of medical laboratory science training and work experience.

Clinical technologists work in laboratories, performing tests and using medical technology to examine and diagnose diseases. They have bachelor's degrees and are expected to be detail-oriented professionals, and they earn a median annual salary of $60,520.

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