Aspiring medical technicians can receive training through a 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's degree program in the field. With a combination of practical and classroom teaching, students gain experience to be able to work in a laboratory at various medical settings. Clinical experience and seminar attendance may be required to complete this degree program. High school graduates applying to these programs may need to have completed advanced math and science courses. Upon completion of the degree program, students may apply for certification through one of the many field organizations; although certification is optional, many employers seek candidates with this credential.
Associate's Degree in Medical Technology
This program teaches individuals how to assist with the analysis of cells, tissues and body fluids from human patients. They also learn how to conduct laboratory tests and gain a strong working understanding of all laboratory equipment. Students also have knowledge of information processing and quality control monitoring.
The medical technician curriculum combines classroom lectures with clinical experience in the lab. Students rotate among various departments, including hematology, phlebotomy and urinalysis, among others. Courses may include:
- Pathogenic microbiology
- Immunology and serology
- Technical mathematics
- Urinalysis and special diagnostics
- Anatomy and physiology
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Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology
This degree program teaches students about the human body and the various diseases that can affect it. Medical technology students also gain a thorough understanding of how to properly use laboratory equipment, perform laboratory tests, analyze the results and communicate with healthcare professionals. Graduates are prepared to sit for certification examinations.
Courses in a medical technology program combine theoretical and practical knowledge. Students obtain hands-on experience in seminars and clinical education. Typical course topics may include:
- Physiological chemistry
- Medical mycology
- Laboratory principles and statistics
- Medical terminology
- Instrumentation and automation
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a medical technician associate degree program are qualified for employment in hospitals, physician offices and ambulatory healthcare services. Depending on the program, popular career titles may include:
- Medical technician
- Medical laboratory technician
- Clinical laboratory technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians should experience a faster-than-average employment growth between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated employment could grow by 16% for that decade. The BLS also reports that medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a median annual salary of $50,550 as of 2015. In 2016, Payscale.com reported that medical technologists earned a median annual wage of $52,187.
Continuing Education Information
Depending on the degree level attained, graduates of med tech programs can seek immediate employment as medical technicians or medical technologists or may choose to further their education. Advancement typically comes with work experience, additional training and professional certification. Medical technicians can enroll in bachelor's degree programs to become medical technologists. Medical technologists can pursue management or supervisory positions with training or through completion of medical technology graduate programs.
Although certification is not required in all states, according to the BLS many techs pursue certification by a professional organization because employers often prefer it. Eligible applicants can obtain certification from several associations, including the American Medical Technologists (AMT), the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
The BLS noted that clinical laboratory workers are required to be licensed in some states. Typical requirements for licensure include passing a written examination and earning a bachelor's degree, but some states may have different licensing requirements depending on the applicant's clinical specialty.
Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available for those interested in becoming a medical technologist. Upon completion of the degree program, students may have to receive certification in order to be considered for hire depending on their location.