The first step in pursuing a career as a certified lab assistant is to earn a certificate or associate's degree in clinical laboratory science. In addition, at least 1,040 hours of lab technology work must be completed within a three-year time frame and an exam must be completed before you can earn the Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant designation.
Lab assistants work in medical laboratories and are responsible for duties such as drawing blood, performing select laboratory tests and ensuring quality control is maintained. These professionals usually hold a certificate or associate's degree in clinical laboratory science, which requires both clinical and classroom training. Although lab assistant certification is not required in every state, the American Medical Technologists (AMT) organization does offer the Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant (CMLA) credential for those interested in certification. Earning certification usually qualifies these professionals for licensure or registration, which some states require.
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree in clinical laboratory science|
|Other Requirements||CMLA certification; state registration or licensure in some states|
|Projected Job Growth||18% from 2014-2024* (medical and clinical laboratory technicians)|
|Median Salary (2015)||$38,970 annually* (medical and clinical laboratory technicians)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Career Information for Certified Lab Assistants
A certified lab assistant provides laboratory support within medical laboratories. Certified lab assistants are responsible for running and enforcing quality control and assurance measures, processing specimens and ensuring that laboratory equipment is in good working order and is properly calibrated. They also make sure that there are plenty of laboratory supplies and that an inventory is maintained. Clerical duties are also required of certified lab assistants. For example, they verify that laboratory documentation is in order and meets specific medical and legal guidelines.
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Aspiring lab technicians are encouraged to complete a certificate program in laboratory assisting. A student can also choose to complete an associate's degree in laboratory technology if he or she wishes to expand his or her employment opportunities as a medical laboratory technician. Many graduates of lab assisting programs work in physician offices, public health departments or hospital laboratories.
Laboratory Assisting Certificate
A laboratory assisting certificate program offers students instruction in specimen analysis and processing, quality control and assessment, phlebotomy and inventory management. Students typically begin the certificate program by enrolling in a course that provides an overview of the lab assistant profession and duties. The program concludes with a laboratory assisting practicum, often at a nearby hospital.
AMT awards the Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant designation. To be eligible for this credential, a candidate must have at least 1,040 hours of laboratory technology work experience completed within the last three years. Additionally, a candidate should have graduated from a training program that included the completion of 120 clinical laboratory hours and 200 classroom hours. Once a candidate has passed the certification exam, the CMLA designation is awarded.
Understanding the additional training and work experience required to become a certified lab assistant is important when considering if this might be the right career for you. It's also a good idea to take into account the expected future job growth for lab technicians, which the BLS projects will grow by 18% between 2014-2024.