Cytotechnologist Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cytotechnologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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A cytotechnologist should have a solid foundation in chemistry, biology and mathematics. A bachelor's degree, as well as a certification examination administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology is required.

Essential Information

Cytotechnologists study cells and search for early signs of disease. These diseases can include cancer as well as bacterial and viral infections. Cytotechnologists must complete a bachelor's degree as well as a postsecondary program in cytotechnology. Certification is also available.

Required Education Bachelor's degree plus 1- to 2-year accredited cytotechnology program
Certification Voluntary; may be required or preferred by employers
Projected Job Growth* 14% between 2014 and 2024 (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists)
Median Salary (May 2015)* $60,520 (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for a Cytotechnologist

A good foundation in high school sciences is the first step toward becoming a cytotechnologist. Classes in chemistry, biology and mathematics are typical prerequisites before moving forward to college-level coursework.

To pursue a career in cytotechnology, students must complete an accredited program in the field. According to the American Society for Cytotechnology, there are currently 48 programs nationwide that are accredited in cytotechnology, and all are university- or hospital-based lasting 1-2 years. Accreditation bodies for these programs are the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Students will learn principles of cytology, embryology, human anatomy, endocrinology, parasitology, cytochemistry, clinical medicine, immunology, histology, inflammatory diseases and other related areas within these programs. Individuals typically complete a cytotechnology program alongside a bachelor's degree with a concentration in biology and chemistry coursework, which is essentially a combination of clinical and formal education.

Once these requirements are met, students become eligible to take the certification examination administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Upon passing this test, professionals can use the CT designation after their names to signify endorsement as a certified technologist and to guarantee proficiency in the field of cytotechnology.

Career Information

The University of North Dakota's School of Medicine and Health Services states that the number of cytotechnologist job opportunities currently exceeds the number of those seeking employment in the field, so ASCP-certified technologists should have little trouble finding open positions at hospitals, clinics or physicians' offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists, including cytotechnologists, was $60,520 a year as of May 2015.

The BLS also notes that projected job growth in this field will be faster than average, with cytotechnologists having the freedom to choose their practice settings. The introduction of automation within cytotechnology has not slowed the demand for technologists. Those with several years of experience who are willing to earn master's or doctoral degrees can move on to become specialists in cytotechnology, which opens doors to prominent jobs in the field with significantly higher pay.

Certified cytotechnologists generally work in medical and clinical laboratories and will need to have a significant background in science, mathematics and health. The projected job outlook for cytotechnologists is promising and has a high demand for individuals in this career field.

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