Laboratory technicians and technologists work in hospitals and laboratory settings to perform tests on bodily fluids and tissue samples. Associate degree and bachelor's degree programs in clinical laboratory science call for general education courses as well as specialized classes for the field. Graduates can qualify to take professional certification exams. Both of these programs require incoming students to have a high school diploma or GED, ACT or SAT scores and letter(s) of recommendation.
Associate Degree in Clinical Laboratory Science
Clinical laboratory technicians work to support medical professionals in the diagnosis of illness and disease through laboratory testing. In order to begin a career in this allied health field, one must complete a two-year associate degree program at a community or technical college. While enrolled in clinical laboratory technician associate degree programs, students learn how to analyze body fluids, cells, and tissues in a lab setting. Candidates conduct blood tests to measure drug levels in patients, analyze chemical content of fluids, and learn to use equipment common in medical laboratories. They must also learn how to communicate their findings to physicians.
Program graduates are qualified to sit for the lab technician certifications offered by industry associations, including the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Possible job titles for graduates include clinical laboratory technician, medical lab assistant, and phlebotomist. Coursework in a clinical technician program is completed through lectures and practical clinical experience. Some examples of courses include the following:
- Basic lab skills
- Anatomy and physiology
- Body fluids analysis
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Bachelor's Degree in Clinical Laboratory Science
The bachelor's degree program in clinical laboratory science is well suited to clinical laboratory technicians interested in becoming clinical laboratory technologists. In these four-year programs students must first complete basic science and general education coursework before taking advanced clinical laboratory science classes. Lab work makes up a significant portion of the curriculum, and students participate in clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience.
Graduates are qualified to sit for the laboratory technologist certification credential offered through the ASCP and AMT. Career options include clinical laboratory technologist and medical technologist. Cytotechnologist and histotechnologist are two career specializations for this type of allied health professional. The coursework in the clinical laboratory science bachelor's program builds upon the courses taken in the associate degree program. Courses in this allied health professional curriculum may include the following:
- Clinical immunology
- Human metabolism biochemistry
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technicians to be $38,970 (www.bls.gov). In the same year, medical and clinical technologists earned a median annual salary of $60,520. For the period 2014-2024, jobs for medical and clinical laboratory technicians are expected to grow by 18% and jobs for medical and clinical technologists are expected to grow 14%, according to the BLS.
Depending on the level of desired employment, students seeking careers in the allied medical professions of clinical laboratory work may pursue an associate degree in clinical laboratory science (technicians) or a bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory science (technologists).