Programs for medical lab technicians combine the study of medicine, the sciences, and laboratory technology. They train students to perform blood tests and help diagnose diseases. Online programs in medical laboratory technology and medical laboratory science are available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. These programs are a hybrid format and require students to complete a clinical component at a local laboratory and internship. Graduates can earn an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Medical Laboratory Technology, an A.A.S in Medical Laboratory Science or a Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Technology. These may be offered as bachelor's degree completion programs.
|Program Levels||Associate and bachelor's degree|
|Online Availability||Programs available in a hybrid format|
|In-Person Requirements||Clinical experience at a local facility|
|Important Prerequisites||Professional certification varies by state|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||16% growth|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$38,970 (for clinical technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some states require professional certification for laboratory personnel. Certification may require a bachelor's degree. Check with the regulations in your state before choosing an educational program.
A.A.S. in Medical Lab Technology
There are several online associate degree programs available in medical lab technology, primarily offered as an Associate in Applied Science degree. During these programs, students participate in intensive study of chemistry and other sciences during laboratory and lecture classes. Students also learn how to examine blood, urine, and other fluids during lab tests to prevent, diagnose and treat disease. They acquire skills that allow them to operate effectively in a lab setting and follow physician instructions. To be eligible for this degree program, one must have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent.
The online associate's degree program is designed to take up to two years to complete. It is offered through a hybrid format, meaning that while much of the program can be completed online, a portion of it is completed through practical laboratory experiences. Students may also need to complete an internship at a clinical site.
The online program is usually accessed with a Web-based application through which students can watch lectures, interact with other students and complete assignments. Students must have a functioning computer and reliable Internet access. They must also have working knowledge of computer software programs like Adobe Flash, Acrobat Reader and Windows Media Player, which can all be downloaded from the Internet at no charge.
Most online courses in medical lab technology are available asynchronously, so students can complete them around their own busy schedules and turn in assignments after they complete each lesson. For the A.A.S. degree, they may complete general education classes in addition to their major courses.
One major course is the introductory medical laboratory course in which students become familiar with the way the health care system works. The curriculum covers how to behave in an ethical and professional manner and lab safety techniques. Students have the opportunity to observe various practices in a clinical setting.
Students in immunology courses study how the body becomes immune to certain diseases through the development of antibodies. They learn about diagnostic procedures and principles, analyzing laboratory techniques and disease correlations.
In a clinical chemistry course, students learn the steps for conducting analyses of the body to search for vitamins, vitamin deficiencies, calcium, magnesium, and electrolytes. They learn to complete chemical and clinical procedures and troubleshoot for potential problems.
Students taking a hematology course study anomalies within blood and bone marrow. They learn about diseases caused by a lack of white blood cells, including leukemia. They also test blood and assess the results.
Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science
A Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science degree program includes rigorous study of the sciences as well as medical and clinical laboratory information. Through this program, students learn concepts in genetics, molecular diagnostics, and clinical practices. They acquire practical laboratory skills for testing and analyzing blood and urine.
There are only a few online bachelor's degree programs available in clinical laboratory science. Some of them require that students have a high school diploma, while others require that students have an associate degree in medical laboratory technology.
These online programs take between two and four years to complete, depending on entrance requirements. The programs are not available entirely online, but require students to complete certain laboratory experiences in person. In addition to the clinical lab experiences, students may also be required to complete an internship.
As with associate's degree programs, students in these bachelor's programs log onto Web-based applications where they can participate in discussion forums, download assignments, complete exams and watch lectures. Software requirements may include virus protection software, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader and media-playing software such as RealPlayer.
Classes that are part of this online bachelor's degree program delve further into clinical laboratory topics. General education courses for this program may be required, depending on whether or not students have previously completed an associate degree.
A course in clinical immunohematology introduces students to principles of blood transfusion and the medicines used with it. They learn about requirements for donors and transfusion procedures.
Students taking a course in bodily fluids and chemistry become familiar with normal lab results for blood, urine, and other bodily fluids. They also study abnormal results, what diseases or deficiencies they could indicate and how to conduct further testing.
Through a medical humanities class, students become familiar with the moral, philosophical and human issues related to medicine. Topics such as eating disorders, cancer, AIDS, mental illness and ageism are discussed.
Career Information and Continuing Education
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for medical lab technicians is expected to grow by about 16%, or faster than the average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Acquiring a bachelor's degree in the field - which may also be completed online - can lead to additional job opportunities. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for clinical technicians was $38,970.
With a bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory science, students can find positions as clinical laboratory technologists. According to the BLS, employment in the position is expected to grow by 16% between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for clinical lab technologists was $50,550.
To be eligible for a position as a medical lab technician, individuals must also obtain certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathology (www.ascp.org). In addition to an accredited associate's degree program, students must complete six semester hours of chemistry and biology or work with a certified pathologist for at least two years and complete at least three years of clinical lab work.
In summary, students who wish to become medical lab technicians can take associate's degree and bachelor's degree courses online, though these courses are offered in a hybrid format that require some in-person laboratory time.