If you love science and want to work in the medical field, then a career as a medical laboratory scientist could be for you. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree, and professional licensure or certification may be required.
Medical laboratory scientists, also known as medical laboratory technologists, conduct lab tests related to the detection and cure of diseases. They use complex medical equipment to analyze body fluids or tissue samples for bacterial infection, hormone levels, and other chemical components affecting human health. A bachelor's degree with a major in one of the life sciences can open the door to this career.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Certification or licensure required in some states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||16% for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians*|
|Mean Annual Wage (2015)||$61,860 for medical and clinical laboratory technologists*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary of a Medical Laboratory Scientist
Wages for medical laboratory scientists vary based upon experience and job location. The mean annual salary earned by medical and clinical laboratory technologists was $61,860 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hospitals are the largest employer of medical and clinical laboratory technologists; those working in this environment earned an average salary of $62,820 annually in 2015. However, the highest paying industry, according to the BLS, is management, scientific, and technical consulting services, paying an average salary of $69,990 as of May 2015. The BLS also states that the projected job outlook for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is 16% for the years 2014-2024.
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Requirements to Become a Medical Laboratory Scientist
While experience and specialized training may play a role in landing a job, the BLS reports that a bachelor's degree in clinical science, medical technology, or one of the life sciences, such as microbiology, is often required for a job as a medical laboratory scientist. All of these programs typically require courses in biology, chemistry, math, physics, and statistics. Additional courses relevant to this career include microbiology, immunology, hematology, and qualitative analysis.
License and Certification
Some states require laboratory workers to be licensed; licensure requirements vary by state but often include completing a bachelor's degree program and then passing a test. Employers may also prefer to hire certified medical laboratory scientists, according to the BLS. Certification is available from organizations such as the American Medical Technologists, the Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts, and the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel. Requirements for certification also vary by organization, but they often include having a bachelor's degree in clinical or life sciences and completing a specific amount of hands-on training within a medical lab setting.
Medical Laboratory Scientist Career Overview
Smaller labs need medical laboratory scientists who are competent in multiple areas. These generalists use advanced technology to culture and evaluate tissue, blood and other fluid samples microscopically to help determine whether a patient's cholesterol levels, electrolytes, or other important bodily functions are operating normally. They may also examine tumors for cancerous cells, cross match blood types, or check chemical compounds in blood to ensure a patient is getting the right dose of a certain medication.
In a larger lab, like those found in regional medical centers, laboratory scientists may specialize in a specific area. Those specializing in immunology, for instance, use various tests to calculate the response of a patient's immune system to an allergen or other foreign body.
Medical laboratory scientists analyze data and prepare reports for physicians and other medical personnel. They sometimes change procedures or develop new ones that enhance the accuracy or efficiency of specimen collection and analysis. They might also supervise laboratory technicians, such as phlebotomists, who are responsible for gathering blood for testing.
As a medical laboratory scientist you'll need to be precise, observant and have extensive scientific and medical knowledge. Reviewing education requirements and salary information is a good way to determine if this is the right career for you.