Most positions in histology require technicians to have at least an associate degree, though a 4-year degree is often preferred by employers. Histotechnicians should have excellent interpersonal skills, since they work closely with pathologists, laboratory managers and other medical professionals. They should be able to perform precise, technical duties involving microscopes, slides, knives, chemicals and other materials. Those with a bachelor's degree may obtain positions that include more complex examination and sampling duties in immunohistochemistry and enzyme histochemistry.
Associate of Science in Histology Technology
The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) maintains a list of accredited histology programs. Accredited associate degree programs teach students how to successfully create sample tissues, provide assistance to pathologists and maintain accurate and valid results in laboratories. Programs combine traditional courses with clinical lab experience. Common courses include:
- Biology and anatomy
- Tissue sample preparation
- Advanced histologic procedures
- Qualitative analysis
Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences
A bachelor's degree program in biological sciences provides students with greater career opportunities in histology. Students are exposed to a well-rounded curriculum that includes life sciences, statistical research, sociology and psychology. Programs typically provide internship opportunities with biology labs and medical centers. A biological sciences bachelor's degree program includes courses in:
- Human anatomy and biology
- Biological research and analysis
- Microbiology and molecular biology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the employment for medical and clinical laboratory technologists is expected to grow 14% from 2014-2024. These professionals make a mean annual wage of $61,860 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.
Most employers require or prefer to hire histotechnicians with certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). The ASCP offers certifications for histotechnicians and histotechnologists, who perform a wider range of histologic duties. Histologic professionals must submit evidence of education and experience to qualify for certification. To obtain certification, professionals must pass a comprehensive exam. The ASCP provides certification study materials for qualified certification applicants. Certification from the ASCP demonstrates proficiency in all areas of tissues sampling and preparation.
Histology workshops may be offered by technical and vocational colleges. Workshops may provide students with additional experience outside of that offered through traditional histology or biology degree programs. The ASCP also offers online workshops for histotechnicians, histotechnologists and other laboratory professionals. Professional development resources are available from the ASCP and the National Society for Histotechnology (NSH). These organizations offer continuing education and career advancement opportunities for lab professionals at all experience levels. The ASCP includes more than 130,000 members and provides textbooks, guides and industry articles that are essential to professional development. Membership to these organizations includes additional career and continuing education benefits.
Prospective histologic technicians can obtain training and clinical laboratory experience in all areas of tissue sampling and preparation through an associate or bachelor's degree program. After obtaining their degrees, students can apply for certification from the ASCP and improve their career opportunities as histologic professionals.