Lab Tech Education Requirements and Career Info

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

Laboratory technicians are usually required to have either an associate's or bachelor's degree, although there are other accredited training programs available. Some states require lab techs to be certified which involves passing an exam. Many employers either require or favor candidates to be certified by a recognized professional organizations.

Essential Information

Laboratory technicians examine specimens under microscopes and interpret other medical data. They must normally have at least an associate's degree, and a bachelor's degree might be helpful for advancement. In addition, laboratory technicians in some states need to become licensed or registered, which usually involves earning one of the various certifications available in the field.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree related to health sciences or laboratory technology
Other Requirements State licensure or registration is sometimes required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% for medical and clinical laboratory technicians*
Median Salary (2015) $38,970 annually for medical and clinical laboratory technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Lab Tech Career Overview

Laboratory techs, also known as medical technologists, clinical laboratory technicians and medical laboratory technicians, perform a variety of tests on patients or specimens in hospitals or other medical facilities. Lab techs work with microscopes and other sophisticated diagnostic tools to test and analyze tissue samples, body fluids and medical images.

Laboratory technicians must be able to labor under stressful conditions and take notice of every detail. Computer and problem-solving skills and manual dexterity, as well as normal color vision, are significant traits for lab techs to have.

Education Requirements

Individuals interested in becoming lab techs are encouraged to begin preparing through high school-level courses and programs. Laboratory techs must be knowledgeable in the sciences, computers and math, all of which can be learned at the most basic level through high school instruction.

Generally, laboratory technicians must complete college-level courses in statistics, biological sciences, math, chemistry and microbiology, as well as computer applications, business and management. Lab techs who run complicated tests using sophisticated equipment are required by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act to have at least an associate's degree in the health sciences or medical technology. With a bachelor's degree and experience, a lab tech might advance to positions such as chief clinical or medical laboratory technologist, supervisor or lab director.

Most states require lab techs to become registered or licensed after completing a formal education program. Employers generally favor certification from professional organizations like the Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts, the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel, the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification and the American Medical Technologists.

Laboratory technicians can advance to positions such as supervisor, lab director, or chief clinical or medical laboratory technologist. Advancement opportunities generally require a bachelor's degree. The job growth outlook for laboratory technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is much better than the outlook for the job market as a whole, with 18% expected between 2014 and 2024.

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