Lab Technician Video: Educational Requirements for Laboratory Technicians

Lab Technician Video: Educational Requirements for Laboratory Technicians Transcript

Growing up, were you fascinated by science? Always looking through a microscope trying to learn more about the world around you? A career as a lab tech may be for you! Most lab technicians work in a clinical setting, often in a hospital laboratory. Using microscopes and other equipment, a laboratory technician examines specimens collected from patients in order to help doctors diagnose and treat illnesses and disease. An associate's or bachelor's degree plus a state certification is required for most positions.


Laboratory technicians work primarily in hospital labs, performing diagnostic tests and examinations on collected tissue and body fluids. The results of these tests are used to help doctors determine the cause of a patient's symptoms and how to best treat them. Lab technicians commonly specialize in virology, microbiology, cytology or general chemistry. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required for all positions and some states require a special certification as well.

Job Duties and Skills

While technicians may work and test for different conditions, their duties remain strikingly similar. As doctors, nurses and phlebotomists collect blood and other tissue samples, laboratory technicians receive and process them in preparation for testing. They then perform a variety of tests, checking for causes of illness or disease or other information that can help a physician make an informed diagnosis.

The many laboratories in a hospital process different types of specimens and use different kinds of tests. Virology and microbiology laboratory technicians culture specimens in order to determine the type of bacteria or virus that is infecting a patient. General chemistry laboratories test blood and spinal fluid for concentrations of platelets, fat, protein, iron and other elements. Cytologists use centrifuges to break samples down into their component cells, allowing for close scrutiny of abnormalities in specific cell groups. After analyzing a specimen, the test result must be reported directly to a physician or entered into a central computer system for easy access.

Lab technicians should expect to work some evenings and weekends, especially when they are just starting out of the field. Some smaller laboratories and hospitals may offer a more traditional 9 to 5 schedule.

Training Required

The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act, originally passed in 1988 requires laboratory technologists to hold at least an associate's degree. Many students choose to earn this degree in Medical Laboratory Technology. This program offers students an overview of each of the main areas of medical laboratory science. In addition to classroom study of scientific and medical theory, students spend time interning at a local hospital, learning testing procedures, specimen handling, laboratory safety and the use of laboratory equipment and technology.

Some states require certain laboratory technicians and technologists to be licensed. These licenses usually require an associate's degree and completion of an exam. In order to renew the licensure, many states demand a number of continuing education credits to keep up with changing technologies and medical practices.

While an associate's degree is sufficient for most positions, a bachelor's or master's degree can increase opportunities for advancement. Those interested in management or research positions should consider completing at least a bachelor's degree in Chemistry, Microbiology, Biology or a related field. Students who opt for an undergraduate or graduate education may need to complete some post-baccalaureate courses in order to obtain the skills needed to pass the required licensing examinations.


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