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How to Become a Pathology Lab Technician

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

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Pathology Lab Technicians

Pathology lab technicians, also referred to as pathologist lab assistants, aid pathologists and other laboratory scientists in the preparation, storage and examination of specimens. They might work in hospitals, medical labs, physician offices or universities. Protective gear must be worn when working with potentially infectious materials. Some positions require that technicians work weekend, evening or even overnight hours.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate degree
Degree Field Laboratory science
Licensure/Certification Varies by state; voluntary certification available
Experience Some employers require previous lab experience
Key Skills Detail-oriented and ability to multi-task; strong written and verbal communication and organizational skills; ability to work with spreadsheets and medical software; operate laboratory equipment and perform procedures such as tissue preparation and gross examinations
Salary $37,610 (2016 median for medical and clinical lab technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification, Employer Job Postings (2012), O*NET Online

An associate's degree in laboratory science is generally required to be a pathology lab technician. Some states require licensure and voluntary certification is available. Additionally, some employers require previous lab experience. Individuals interested in this career should be detail-oriented and have the ability to multi-task. They should also have strong written and verbal communication skills as well as organizational abilities. Additionally, they should be able to work with spreadsheets and medical software, operate laboratory equipment and perform procedures such as tissue preparation and gross examinations. According to 2016 data from Payscale.com, medical and clinical lab technicians earned a median salary of $37,618.

Become a Pathology Lab Technician

Step 1: Acquire the Necessary Education

High school students interested in working as a pathology lab technician should take courses in biology, math and chemistry. An associate's degree in a laboratory science discipline is required by many employers. Other associate's degree programs that include science courses and clinical laboratory science courses are also acceptable.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Some employers prefer candidates who have a background in laboratory work or assisting pathologists. While attending school, students may consider working part-time in a laboratory. Hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and physician offices are common places of employment for lab technicians.

Additionally, pathology lab personnel in some states are required to obtain a state license. Education and experience requirements vary by state. Individuals should contact their state board of health for information on pathology lab technician licensing.

Step 3: Seek Career Advancement

While a bachelor's or master's degree is not usually required for a pathology lab technician position, earning a bachelor's degree and completing an accredited pathologists' assistant program may help students meet certification requirements. Individuals must also pass the Board of Certification (BOC) exam to obtain the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) certification. Pathology lab technicians who earn certification are typically required to meet continuing education requirements.

Pathology lab technicians typically need at least an associate's degree in laboratory science and might need to meet licensing requirements in their state.

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