Certificate programs in clinical lab technology can be found online, although these programs often require some in-person clinical experiences at campus-based labs or healthcare facilities convenient to the student. For students who are looking for a fully online program, a bachelor's degree in biology may be a relevant alternative. Some of these programs have no laboratory requirements, but they can provide an educational foundation for a future medicine-related career.
Clinical lab technology programs typically take one year or less to complete. Before enrolling, students must ensure that their computers are equipped with a soundcard and microphone.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and clinical laboratory technicians typically need either a postsecondary certificate or an associate's degree. Some states require professional certification or licensing for laboratory technicians, so check with your state's requirements before choosing an educational program.
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Clinical Laboratory Assistant Certificate
An online lab assistant program prepares students to assist doctors and other healthcare professionals with the detection and study of disease through lab testing. Graduates are prepared to perform a wide range of job functions, including processing specimens, documenting laboratory activities, operating standard laboratory equipment and conducting quality assurance activities. Topics covered as part of a lab assistant certificate program may include point-of-care testing, urinalysis, specimen collection, medical laboratory safety, hematology and clinical chemistry.
A laboratory assistant hybrid program may also require students to complete a laboratory assisting practicum with a local medical laboratory or healthcare facility. The practicum provides students with hands-on experience in the processing of laboratory specimens, using laboratory instruments and performing laboratory computer functions.
Information and Requirements
Clinical lab assistant programs offered online in some form are relatively short programs, typically between 5-10 credits. Due to the need for clinical experience, the programs typically combine online instruction with laboratory-based instruction. Students access online materials and resources via online learning platforms such as Blackboard. Students, who have access to online library materials and academic advising, can research materials and interact with classmates and professors via discussion boards.
Technical requirements may include a soundcard, speakers, microphone and DVD drive. It is also commonly recommended students have a DSL or cable Internet connection, as well as plug-ins such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Windows Media Player and Real Player.
A certificate-level lab assistant curriculum prepares students to assist doctors in various stages of laboratory testing; the programs are focused on training needed specifically for the job and rarely involve general education requirements.
Introductory Laboratory Assisting
An introductory lab assistant course covers the fundamental concepts of clinical laboratory sciences, as well as the role of the lab assistant. Topics examined include specimen integrity, pre-analytical processes, laboratory instrumentation, basic testing principles and laboratory safety.
A phlebotomy course covers topics such as phlebotomy procedures and laboratory test codes. Students learn about evaluating specimens, the proper order for collecting blood and the venipuncture technique.
This course covers various terms used in healthcare, including terminology related to diagnostic tests, diseases and medical procedures. Emphasis is placed on developing proper communication skills, as well as the proper pronunciation and spelling of medical terms.
A hybrid laboratory assisting or clinical laboratory assistant certificate program prepares graduates for employment in positions such as technical laboratory assistant, medical laboratory assistant and clinical laboratory assistant. Some programs prepare graduates to seek American Medical Technologists (AMT) certification as a Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant. With additional training and an associate's degree, laboratory assistants can go on to pursue certification as a medical laboratory technician.
Overall, online training programs for aspiring lab assistants typically involve both online courses and hands-on training. Lectures, assignments and class discussions are generally conducted in a virtual classroom, while lab work must be completed on site.