Proficiency in phlebotomy theory and techniques can be achieved in a 12-week course or a 2-semester certificate program that covers not only blood collection but also the collection of other samples, manual testing, computerized testing and result reporting. Students usually practice blood collection during a clinical experience.
Associate's and bachelor's programs in medical technology or clinical laboratory science can include phlebotomy training, but only as a small part of the broader curriculum, which also covers the fundamentals of health science and medical technology. Associate's degree programs may prepare students for clinical laboratory technician certification, while bachelor's programs can prepare students to hold supervisory positions in a laboratory.
Phlebotomy Technician Certificate
Students wishing to learn the procedures for drawing blood have the option to earn a training certificate in community college or technical school phlebotomy program. A phlebotomy program covers the basics of blood collection theory and include many hours of supervised clinical practice in the various collection methods.
Applicants should be high school graduates or the equivalent with a 2.0 GPA or better. Technical schools or community colleges may require specific performance goals in standardized tests, but the minimum scores are usually lower than those required by 4-year institutions. Applicants are frequently expected to be computer literate and possess basic mouse and keyboard skills. The training certificate program in phlebotomy studies teaches collection of blood samples by venipuncture, dermipuncture and micro-collection techniques. Courses may also include collecting and processing of other clinical specimens. Some possible courses are:
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Methods of blood collection
- Blood collection technology
- Blood banking
- Clinical experience
Certificate of Completion - Medical Technician
Medical technicians work in hospitals or clinical laboratories, and follow strict testing protocols to perform analyses on medical samples. Many medical technicians specialize in narrow subject areas, often performing the same tasks repetitively day after day. Testing may require complex equipment, and medical technicians are expected to calibrate, operate, maintain and restock the equipment. Other medical technicians may have direct patient contact to collect samples or conduct procedures.
Applicants should have high school diplomas, with good math and science grades. Given the prevalence of high-tech machinery in the laboratory environment, computer literacy and mechanical aptitude would be welcome skills. Certificate programs for medical technicians typically last one year, and often include clinical laboratory experience. Courses can include:
- Medical and anatomical terminology
- Clinical microbiology
- Medical laboratory skills
- Inventory management
Associate's Degree in Medical Technology
This 1- or 2-year program prepares students for a career in clinical laboratories, where they will collect and process medical specimens, prepare and maintain lab equipment, perform lab tests and file results. Applicants must have high school diplomas or theequivalent, preferably with a concentration in math or science. Computer expertise and manual dexterity are also valuable skills for a career as a medical technologist. The program combines a range of basic medical subjects, specimen collection techniques and laboratory technology. Students will gain valuable experience through in-service clinical training. Some typical courses and topics studied are:
- Medical terminology
- Laboratory tests and technology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Specimen collection methods
- CPR certification
- Laboratory reporting
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Bachelor's Degree in Clinical Laboratory Science
Students learn the pathophysiologic foundation of laboratory testing and master the variety of skills required to perform clinical laboratory tests. Graduates will know how to develop and modify test procedures, collect and evaluate results, monitor the function of all instrumentation and verify quality assurance and safety procedures. Graduates will be prepared to assume supervisory roles in clinical laboratories.
Applicants should have graduated from an accredited high school with good math and science grades. Precise GPA requirements or college test scores will vary depending by college or university. In addition to courses in anatomy and chemistry, students majoring in clinical laboratory science will have the opportunity to specialize in subjects like blood and fluid analysis, clinical pathology or laboratory management. Frequently taken courses and topics studied include:
- Organic chemistry
- Body fluids
- Clinical biochemistry
- Molecular diagnostics
Popular Career Options
Medical technicians are usually supervised by medical technologists, lab managers or physicians. Some medical technicians specialize in a small number of tests, and perform the same actions multiple times a day. Other medical technicians will be expected to master the protocols for many different tests. Possible job titles include phlebotomist, EKG technician, cardiovascular technician, dialysis technician and surgical technician. Bachelor's degree graduates are prepared for a variety of jobs in clinical laboratories or hospitals, where they typically work under the supervision of a lab supervisor or pathologist. A technologist may in turn play a supervisory role, managing the work of medical technicians and transport personnel. Common career opportunities are:
- Medical assistant
- Medical laboratory technician
- Physician's assistant
- Respiratory therapist
- Radiologic technologist
- Radiation therapy technologist
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth of 25% for phlebotomists during the 2014-2024 decade. In 2015, phlebotomists earned a median annual salary of $31,630, per the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Coursework often prepares graduates to take national exams for certification as clinical laboratory technicians or medical laboratory technicians. Students may apply some credits toward earning 4-year degrees in clinical laboratory science.
Students interested in studying phlebotomy have numerous options available to them ranging from a basic training course, a certificate program or undergraduate degrees. Courses and certificates in phlebotomy have little training beyond the fundamentals of the phlebotomist profession, while undergraduate degrees in clinical lab science or medical technology cover many other healthcare-related topics, in turn preparing graduates for career opportunities beyond strictly phlebotomy.