How to Become a Cytology Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a cytology technician. Learn about the job description and duties, and watch the step-by-step process to start a career as a cytology technician.

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a…
  • 1:37 Earn a High School Diploma
  • 2:02 Consider an Associate's Degree
  • 2:33 Gain Work Experience
  • 2:52 Earn Certifcation or Licensure

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Should I Become a Cytology Technician?

Cytology technicians, sometimes referred to as cyto-prep technicians, help in patient diagnosis by preparing and staining slides that contain cell samples or various bodily fluids. Their work is the basis for other medical professionals to diagnose illnesses and determine treatments.

Cytology technicians spend almost all of their working time in the laboratories of medical facilities or diagnosis centers. They receive samples of cells and other materials to test for abnormal conditions, bacteria, or viruses, and other disease indicators. Most technicians work full-time during regular business hours. Strict safety and anti-contamination procedures must be followed in the lab to protect the samples and the technicians.

Cytology technicians need extensive knowledge of laboratory methods and equipment, and they might need to know how to use programs to keep medical and lab notes. They also must be detail-oriented and have manual dexterity. As of May 2015, medical and clinical lab technicians (which include cytology technicians) earned a median annual salary of $41,420 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This group was expected to see an 18% increase in job opportunity from 2014-2024, per the BLS. This was much faster than average growth. Let's look at the steps to become a cytology technician.

Earn a High School Diploma

Medical and clinical lab technicians typically need an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, or certificate. It can be helpful to prepare for postsecondary training by taking high school science classes, particularly biology and chemistry. Computer literacy is also needed; the job will require entering data into computers and maintaining lab notes.

Consider an Associate's Degree Program

Prospective cytology technicians may want to consider an associate's degree program for medical or clinical laboratory technicians. These programs aim to teach students the skills necessary to perform lab tests that help medical professionals diagnose diseases and prescribe treatments. Some of the classes offered in such programs include anatomy, physiology, chemistry, phlebotomy, hematology, urinalysis, and medical terminology.

Gain Work Experience

Cytology techs find work at the laboratories of hospitals or other health care facilities. Some may be employed in university medical centers or private laboratories, working in specific areas, such as gynecological screenings or detecting diseases.

Further Yourself Professionally

Some employers prefer to hire cytology technicians who are certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and some states require licensure for laboratory personnel. These designations mostly apply to positions that require at least a bachelor's degree.

A bachelor's degree program in cytotechnology qualifies techs for advancement to higher positions as they learn how to analyze cell samples to determine if there are abnormalities. That analysis is essential to diagnosis and in determining treatment options. Cytotechnology programs include both laboratory and classroom work.

Licensure and certification usually require meeting educational, experience, and examination requirements, though these may vary according to the state and certifying organization.

In conclusion, cytology technicians typically need an associate's degree, though a bachelor's degree in cytotechnology could lead to opportunities for advancement.

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