Difference Between Medical Technician & Medical Technologist

Medical technicians and medical technologists work in the same field, though technologists are trained to deal with more complexity. The similarities between them make either a viable option for those wanting to work in a lab setting.

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Comparing Medical Technicians to Medical Technologists

Medical technicians and medical technologists often work in laboratories for the shared goal of analyzing patient specimens. Medical technicians often work under the supervision of medical technologists, who perform more complex testing. Read on for more information on the similarities and differences in these two medical laboratory careers.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Medical Technician Associate's degree or certificate $38,950 (for all medical and clinical laboratory technicians) 18% (for all medical and clinical laboratory technicians)
Medical Technologist Bachelor's degree $61,070 (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists) 14% (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Medical Technicians vs. Medical Technologists

Medical technicians and medical technologists are similar in that they work on related tasks. Medical technicians spend their time in the lab doing a variety of tasks, from specimen quality control to equipment maintenance. They may also communicate with staff and patients by answering phones. Medical technologists, on the other hand, perform much more complex testing of specimens and make sure samples are intact for handling. Both positions require a lot of standing as well as protective gear to prevent the spread of disease.

Medical Technician

Medical technicians are trained to handle simple specimen tests, such as pregnancy tests, low-order urinalyses, and basic blood tests. A medical technician needs to be able to follow strict orders when it comes to processing patient samples, not only for their safety, but to preserve the reputation of the laboratory they work for. They monitor the quality of lab test results and may be responsible for drawing blood samples from patients. Medical technicians may work a normal schedule or an erratic one, depending on when the lab they work for is open.

Job responsibilities of a Medical Technician include:

  • Documenting procedures
  • Operating lab equipment properly
  • Evaluating data
  • Verifying test results
  • Following all safety protocols

Medical Technologist

Medical technologists are trained to analyze the fluid samples of patients, such as blood, urine, or tissue, in highly complex laboratory tests. They also review and report each test result to ensure quality control. They use high-tech equipment to perform their tests; these machines can often do more than one test at once. They may use cell counters and microscopes in their everyday work. Medical technologists spend much of the day on their feet, and they may have to work nights and weekends depending on when their lab is in operation.

Job responsibilities of a Medical Technologist include:

  • Keeping up with test results for individual patients
  • Addressing equipment malfunctions through troubleshooting
  • Employing problem solving skills during testing
  • Having proficiency in operating equipment
  • Understanding test systems

Related Careers

If you like the idea of being a medical technician, you might also consider being a hospital laboratory aide, since both jobs involve working with patient fluid samples. Those interested in a career as a medical technologist might think about becoming a histology lab assistant, as both positions require working with patient tissue samples.

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