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Lab Tech: Educational Overview for Becoming a Laboratory Technician

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a lab tech. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Lab technicians work in hospitals, labs and clinical settings assisting with medical testing. The projected job growth for lab technicians of 18% from 2014-2014 is much faster than for the job market as a whole, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, making this a solid career choice.

Essential Information

Lab technicians, also referred to as clinical and medical laboratory technicians, perform and help with medical testing procedures and analysis. They generally work in hospitals, clinical settings and independent labs. Entry-level employment usually requires a certificate or associate's degree in medical laboratory technology, and those seeking advancement may earn a bachelor's degree in this field. Clinical practice is often included in such programs. States may have additional requirements for lab technicians, such as licensure or registration, and earning a certification may help meet these requirements.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree for entry-level employment; bachelor's degree for advancement
Other Requirements State licensure or registration sometimes necessary; voluntary certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 18% for medical and clinical laboratory technicians
Median Salary (2015)* $38,970 annually for medical and clinical laboratory technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Overview for a Lab Tech

Associate Degree Programs

Although some lab techs may be trained on the job, most complete a certificate or associate's degree to enter the field. These 6-24 month programs are offered by community colleges and vocational schools, and may begin with courses in medical terminology, anatomy and laboratory techniques. Students may learn concepts and procedures ranging from urinalysis to hematology. As such, courses may help students to use lab equipment to collect and analyze blood and other fluids.

Clinical Practice

Programs may also include a clinical practice that allows students to hone their lab skills. During these experiences, students may rotate through microbiology and hematology labs or departments to gain broad experience in analysis.

Certification Information

The American Medical Technologists certifies qualified candidates as medical laboratory technicians (www.americanmedtech.org). To be considered, applicants must complete either an associate's degree program in a field related to medical technology, or earn at least 60 semester hours, with at least 25 hours in medical technology, science or math. Eligible applicants can then take an exam in order to earn their credentials. Certified professionals must complete continuing education credits to maintain their credentials.

Advancement

Lab techs may become laboratory technicians through job experience or by completing a 4-year bachelor's degree program in medical technology or a related field. Course work may include pathology, clinical chemistry and body fluid analysis. Programs may also include laboratory management courses in which students may discuss topics ranging from research studies to lab operations.

Students who complete the program are prepared for the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification exam. Most programs offer some laboratory experience as part of the curriculum, and some may include a required internship with a clinical lab. Graduates are prepared to enter the career field immediately.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 18% growth in employment opportunities for medical and clinical laboratory technicians for the years 2014 through 2024, which is considerably faster than the national average for all occupations. These technicians earned median annual wages of $38,970 in May 2015.

Lab technicians usually complete an accredited certificate or associate's degree program. Some states require lab technicians to be licensed. Certification is available, though not always required.


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