Medical technology training covers topics like medical lab procedures, clinical instrumentation and cell structures through lecture-based classroom sessions and clinical experiences. Specializations include microbiology, immunology or molecular genetics.
Two-year associate and four-year bachelor's programs can help students become medical technicians and technologists, while research-oriented master's degree programs can prepare experienced students to become lab managers. Medical lab technicians and technologists are instrumental in helping to detect, diagnose, monitor and treat disease.
Associate and bachelor's degrees require a high school diploma or equivalent and prerequisite coursework. Master's programs require a bachelor's degree in a related field with clinical training. Some of these programs may also require certification.
Associate of Science in Medical Technology
A two year associate degree in medical technology prepares graduates for entry-level positions as medical technicians. Students are taught to analyze and conduct tests on blood, tissue, and body fluids in order to detect disease-causing abnormalities and foreign organisms. Associate degree programs in medical technology incorporate both academic coursework in the life sciences and practical lab classes.
Applicants are also expected to have some background in biology, chemistry, health science and mathematics. Prior lab experience is not required beyond work that was performed in high school science courses.
Associate degree programs in medical technology stress biology, chemistry, specimen collection and the use and maintenance of lab equipment. Many programs also include general education requirements in writing and the humanities. Students usually complete medical technology training in the following topics:
- General biology
- Diagnostic microbiology
- Clinical chemistry
- Clinical instrumentation
Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology
A bachelor's degree in medical technology qualifies graduates to perform a greater variety of tests using sophisticated lab equipment. Graduates may become medical technologists; the technologist position is more advanced than the technician role. A bachelor's degree takes four years to complete, three of which are devoted to academic coursework and lab training. For the last year, most programs require students to complete clinical training programs that are required for the national certifying exam offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathologists Board of Registry (ASCP).
Students interested in Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology programs should have a background in math and science. In addition to general education requirements that must be completed prior to medical technology training, many schools require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.
Bachelor's-level coursework probes deeper into biology, chemistry, mathematics, statistics and clinical lab procedures. It also introduces students to lab management. Medical technologist education covers the following:
- Molecular biology
- Clinical microscopy
- Cell structure and function
Master of Science in Medical Technology
Medical technologists who wish to expand on their undergraduate education can enter into 2-year Master of Science programs. Graduate students in medical technology typically select an area of specialization and conduct advanced research and analysis.
Master's programs in medical technology typically require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in biology or medical technology, the curriculum for which should have included 12-15 months of clinical training. Some programs also require ASCP certification, though often students are permitted to complete certification during the first year of their graduate studies. Most programs do not require students to submit standardized Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.
Graduate programs in medical technology emphasize independent research that is specific to a student's area of specialization. In addition to this research, students may complete courses in the following:
- Protein chemistry
- Healthcare financial operations
- Computer-based instrumentation
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Most medical lab technicians are employed by hospitals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the field of medical and clinical laboratory technicians is expected to experience a 18% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024. The need for equipment maintenance combined with aging population growth will contribute to the demand for additional workers. The average annual salary for medical lab technicians was $41,420, according to the BLS in 2015.
Graduates of medical technology bachelor's programs are capable of performing complex tests and analyses that associate degree holders are not specifically trained for. As a result, medical technologists are eligible for employment by government agencies, private research labs and pharmaceutical companies. The BLS reports that the average annual salary for clinical and lab medical technologists as of 2015 was $61,860, and employment in this field was projected to grow 14% from 2014-2024. If graduates choose to take the ASCP certification exam, they are also eligible for higher salaries and senior lab positions.
Popular Career Options
Graduates of master's programs in medical technology typically work as lab managers, senior researchers and clinical supervisors. They are often employed by government agencies, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or environmental research firms specializing in virology. Because many master's programs include business courses, some graduates open their own research facilities or work as consultants to pharmaceutical or medical supply firms.
Medical technology degrees exist at the associate, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. These degrees teach increasingly advanced skills relating to tests performed on the human body and laboratory operations.