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There are two types of lab technicians: medical appliance, dental or ophthalmic lab technicians and clinical lab technicians. Medical appliance, dental or ophthalmic lab technicians construct, fit and maintain various medical devices. Clinical lab technicians prepare body fluids and cell samples for testing and sometimes also perform the testing themselves.
Lab techs work in various environments, depending on their area of specialization. Some are employed in medical appliance, dental or ophthalmic labs, while others specialize as clinical laboratory technicians, preparing blood, tissue or other samples and running diagnostic tests. An entry-level job for technicians usually requires on-the-job training or an associate's degree.
|Career Title||Medical Appliance, Dental or Ophthalmic Lab Tech||Medical and Clinical Lab Tech|
|Required Education||On-the-job training; postsecondary training available||Associate's degree|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||10%||16%|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$40,520||$41,420|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Lab Tech Job Duties and Education
Medical Appliance, Dental or Ophthalmic Lab Tech Job Duties and Education
Lab techs who work in medical appliance, dental or ophthalmic laboratories are involved in the construction, fitting, maintenance and repair of medical devices, prosthetics, braces, corrective equipment or surgical appliances. They usually follow instructions or prescriptions from healthcare professionals. Construction of assistive devices often involves creating molds or casts of patients' body parts, while technical and mechanical skills are necessary for fitting, maintenance and repair.
These technicians often learn their skills on the job; however, there are formal education programs available for technicians specializing in prosthetics or dentistry. These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete, although some may take up to four years.
Clinical Lab Tech Job Duties and Education
Clinical lab technicians prepare body fluid and cell samples for testing by lab technologists or physicians. They sometimes test the samples themselves using automated equipment. Clinical lab techs often specialize in areas such as phlebotomy (preparing blood samples) or histology (readying tissue specimens).
Clinical lab technicians are usually required to hold an associate's degree in clinical laboratory science, medical technology or a related scientific field, such as biology or chemistry. However, some employers offer on-the-job training for high school graduates.
Lab Tech Salary Information
The median salary for laboratory technicians varies by specialty. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical and clinical lab techs earned an average wage of $41,420 per year, while dental lab techs earned $40,520 that same year. For all technicians, the highest salaries were reported in the medical equipment and supplies manufacturing industry. Factors that influenced earnings included the industry in which a clinical lab tech worked and the level of education he or she had.
Both medical and clinical lab technicians usually require training or an associates degree, but some employers offer on-the-job training. Medical lab technician training programs vary from one to four years in length. Clinic lab technicians are usually required to hold an associate's degree in a related field. Both careers are projected to have high future growth by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.