Microbiology Technician: Certification and Education Requirements

Microbiology is the study of unicellular or microscopic organisms and their effect on humans. One popular pathway to pursuing a career as a microbiology technician is an associate's degree program for clinical or medical laboratory technicians.

Essential Information

Associate's degree programs explore the microbiology principles important to a technician while also examining other medical modalities. Students learn the skills and knowledge they need to perform basic medical technician responsibilities, such as hematology, microbiology and molecular diagnostic tests. Instruction will also be given in patient diversity and care, cultural awareness and healthcare ethics. All programs require an internship in a healthcare facility. Students also must complete general education courses. These programs can be completed in two years of full-time study.

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Associate's Degree in Clinical/Medical Laboratory Technology

Applicants submit high school transcripts or their equivalent. Standardized test scores are rarely required, although some programs do feature math and English placement tests. Other common requirements include a criminal background check, current immunization records and proof of personal medical insurance.

In addition to the core medical lab technician coursework, degree candidates also enroll in electives such as public speaking, English composition and technical writing. Below are listed some common course topics.

  • Phlebotomy procedures
  • Clinical microbiology
  • Body fluid analysis
  • Immunology
  • Coagulation
  • Blood bank theory and practice

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for medical and clinical lab technicians were expected to increase by 18%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for medical lab technicians was $38,970 as of May 2015. Tennessee and Maryland were the two states with the greatest concentration of medical lab technicians employed in that same year.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Technicians who want to continue their microbiology education might consider pursuing a Bachelor of Science in either microbiology or a related subject, such as cellular and molecular biology. These 4-year programs cover topics such as the identification, growth, structure and behavior of microorganisms like bacteria and viruses; bachelor's-level students learn to apply this knowledge to medical and clinical research. Earning a bachelor's degree can lead to opportunities as a microbiology technologist, which is a higher-level position than technician.

A number of professional organizations offer certification credentials for qualified microbiology technicians and technologists. These organizations include the American Society for Clinical Pathology's Board of Certification and the American Medical Technologists. Each organization offers different criteria for certification. Common requirements include completing an accredited educational program and passing a competency exam.

An associate's degree in microbiology integrates lecture-based scientific coursework with hands-on experience in the field, which prepares graduates for jobs as technicians. The combined biological and general education can also serve as a foundation for bachelor's-level studies or professional certification.

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