Medical Lab Technologist: Job Info & Career Requirements

Mar 25, 2019

Learn about the work responsibilities of a medical lab technologist. Discover what education is necessary in addition to salary and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career decision.

Career Definition of a Medical Lab Technologist

A career in medical lab technology takes place largely in the laboratory, analyzing blood and tissue samples, making cultures and matching and preparing blood donations for transfusion. Medical lab technologists work in hospital laboratories, pharmaceutical firms, research facilities and other lab settings to assist doctors and surgeons in determining the presence, severity and possible causes of disease. More experienced medical lab technologists may advance in this career by conducting research, developing new methods of analysis and supervising and training clinical lab technicians.

Education Bachelor's degree in medical technology or medical lab science
Job Skills Analytical, precise, and technologically inclined
Median Salary (2017)* $51,770 (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 12% increase (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Beginning a career as a medical lab technologist requires students to first pursue a bachelor's degree in medical technology or in a life science, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Medical technology degree programs that meet industry standards are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools and The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Coursework covers general sciences as well as laboratory-specific skills and research methods. With a relevant degree, medical lab technologists can pursue professional certification from an organization such as the American Medical Technologists.

Skills Required

Qualified medical lab technologists must be extremely precise and methodical in their work; they should also be adept in handling delicate laboratory equipment and sensitive materials. According to the College Board, a medical lab technology career requires its practitioners to be analytical and precise, with an interest in medicine, science and technology. In an increasingly automated industry, medical lab technologists should be skilled in using computers and digital equipment and comfortable with learning new technologies.

Career Outlook

The BLS predicts faster-than-average growth in the medical and clinical lab technology field from 2016-2026. While technological advancements have made some laboratory procedures obsolete, they have also made new kinds of testing and analysis possible, spurring job growth among medical and clinical laboratory technologists. According to the BLS, medical and clinical lab technologists and technicians made median annual salaries of $51,770 in 2017. Further advancement is possible with graduate education; both master's and doctorate degrees are available, and educated professionals have the opportunity to pursue leadership in their field as laboratory directors.

Alternative Careers

Other career options in this field include:

Biological Technician

Also playing a similar role in assisting scientists with lab experiments, biological technicians collect and prepare samples of human tissue and fluids as well as other organic materials, such as food products and water. They're also responsible for the set up and cleaning of laboratory equipment and tools, performing tests and creating detailed reports of findings. A bachelor's degree in biology or a related area of study is necessary to enter this profession, and obtaining lab experience is very important. According to reports from the BLS, biological technicians should experience job growth of 10% during the 2016-2026 decade. In May of 2017, the BLS determined that biological technicians earned a median salary of $43,800.

Chemical Technician

For those interested in helping chemists and engineers create and improve new products, becoming a chemical technician could be a good career option. Chemical technicians run tests that analyze the composition and quality of different kinds of products and solutions. They also prepare experiments, examine processes, mix up solutions, write reports and maintain equipment used in the lab. To qualify for employment, an associate degree in chemical technology or applied science is usually necessary, and as with other technician careers, coursework in a lab environment is vital. The BLS projects employment of chemical technicians will increase by 4% between 2016 and 2026. These professionals earned a median income of $47,280, as seen in 2017 BLS figures.

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