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How to Become a Histotechnician: Career Roadmap

Jul 16, 2018

Learn how to become a histotechnician. Research the education requirements, training, certification information, and experience you will need to start a career in histology. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a…
  • 1:14 Meet the Education…
  • 2:19 Obtain State Licensure
  • 2:41 Earn Certification

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Histotechnician?

Degree Level Training or associate's degree program
Degree Field Histology, histotechnician
Licensure/Certification Licensure varies by state; voluntary certification available through the ASCP
Experience None
Key Skills Patience; problem solving and verbal and written communication skills; ability to work under pressure; familiarity with label-making , spreadsheet, and medical software; must be able to operate and maintain laboratory equipment such as microtomes, histological knives, and tissue choppers
Salary $51,652 (2016 median for histotechnologists)

Sources: National Society for Histotechnology, Community College of Rhode Island, University of North Dakota, PayScale.com.

A histotechnician (HT) is a clinical laboratory technician who prepares very thin samples of body tissue to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. The majority of these professionals work in reference libraries or hospitals. Safety precautions must be taken when working with potentially infectious samples.

Histotechnicians need to complete a training or associate's degree program in histology. Licensure requirements vary by state, and voluntary certification is available through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Prospective histotechnicians should have problem solving skills, patience, verbal and written communication skills, and the ability to work under pressure. They should be familiar with label making software, spreadsheet software, and medical software, and must be able to operate and maintain laboratory equipment, such as microtomes, histological knives, and tissue choppers. As of January 2016, Payscale.com reported that the median annual salary for histotechnologists was $51,652.

Step 1: Meet the Education Requirements

Individuals interested in becoming histotechnicians need to complete high school science and math courses. Aspiring histotechnicians have two educational paths from which to choose. One option is to complete a histotechnician program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). These programs take about one year to complete and cover topics such as chemistry, histology, immunology, biochemistry, and medical ethics. The other option that aspiring histotechnicians have is to complete an associate's degree program that includes supervised histology training in a health facility. Students who complete these associate's degree programs generally receive an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree with a major in histology.

Gain experience. Histotechnician education directly prepares individuals for jobs, and students may be able to increase their future employment opportunities by working part-time in a laboratory while attending school.

Step 2: Obtain State Licensure

Certain states require that histotechnicians obtain licensure through the state. In some states, histotechnicians are required to apply for licensure, while in other states, laboratory facilities are required to license their technicians. Licensure requirements could include completion of an NAACLS-accredited degree program or equivalent experience.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Some employers prefer to hire certified histotechnicians. To obtain ASCP certification, individuals must pass the organization's histotechnician exam, which measures their procedural knowledge, laboratory techniques, analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, and effective communication techniques. To qualify for the exam, students must complete a NAACLS-accredited histotechnician program or earn a specified amount of college credits, including a combination of science courses. Candidates who have earned college credits, but who have not completed an accredited program must also have a year of histology laboratory experience. Candidates are also required to have had experience with microtomy, fixation, staining, and processing within the last ten years.

Maintain Certification. Histotechnicians must complete a Certification Maintenance Program (CMP) every three years. Continuing education courses, professional development courses, and workshops are some methods that histotechnicians may use to earn CMP points.

A histotechnician prepares very thin samples of body tissue to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. Prospective histotechnicians need to complete a training or associate's degree program before being licensed and possibly certified.

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