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Clinical Laboratory Tech Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a clinical laboratory tech. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

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Clinical laboratory technicians and technologists typically work in conjunction with one another to perform lab tests and scientific analyses of specimens. Technologists undergo more schooling and need to meet more requirements than technicians and accordingly, receive a higher salary.

Essential Information

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians test cells and body fluids for bacteria. Most work is performed at hospitals, laboratories, private clinics, blood banks and colleges and universities. Clinical lab technologists perform complex tests, evaluate test results and prepare lab specimens. Clinical lab technicians often work under the supervision of clinical lab technologists, performing less complex tests, preparing lab specimens and operating automated analyzers. Education requirements range from a certificate to a bachelor's degree, depending on the job title. Licensing is needed in some states, but certification is voluntary, though advantageous.

Career Clinical Lab Technologist Clinical Lab Technician
Required Education Bachelor's degree in medical technology or a directly related field Certificate or associate's degree in medical lab technology
Licensing and Certification License required in some states; a bachelor's degree may be needed to earn a license; certification is available Certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% 18%
Median Salary (2015)* $60,520 $38,970

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Degree Programs

Clinical Laboratory Technologists

Clinical laboratory technologists must hold a bachelor's degree in medical technology or one of the life sciences. Topics of instruction include chemistry, mathematics and microbiology. Courses in computer science and business management may also be required.

Clinical Laboratory Technicians

Clinical laboratory technicians are required to hold either an associate's degree or a certificate in medical laboratory technology. Certificate programs in medical technology are available at community colleges, hospitals and vocational schools as well as through the Armed Forces. Typical coursework includes chemistry, biology, hematology and urinalysis.

Licensure

Many states require clinical laboratory technologists to be licensed. Licensing guidelines vary by state and specialty but generally require applicants to have a bachelor's degree and pass a licensing examination.

Certification

Certification is preferred by many clinical laboratory employers. Certifying bodies include the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology and the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel.

Career Information

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians test cells and body fluids for microorganisms, such as those that cause strep throat and other viruses. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians also test patients' reactions to drug treatments, assess test results and match patients' blood types to that of donors.

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians may also specialize. Specialization areas for clinical laboratory technologists include chemistry, cytotechnology, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology and immunohematology. Specialization areas for clinical laboratory technicians include phlebotomy and histotechnology.

Much of the work done by clinical laboratory technologists and technicians takes place in hospitals, clinics, blood banks and independent laboratories. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians may also be employed by the federal government and by colleges and universities.

Clinical laboratory technicians and technologists, while similar, require different levels of education and perform lab duties with varying stages of complexity. Because different areas of specialization and salaries distinguish each career path, it is important for interested parties to carefully consider their educational and career goals.

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