Work As a Histology Assistant: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a histology assistant. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in histology. View article »

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  • 0:00 Histology Assistants…
  • 1:03 Get Education
  • 1:53 Obtain State Licensure
  • 2:12 Obtain Certification

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Video Transcript

Histology Assistant Career Info

Histology assistants, also referred to as histology technicians or histotechnicians, are clinical laboratory technicians who aid pathologists in obtaining and analyzing tissue samples from patients.

The majority of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, including histology assistants, work full-time in medical care settings, such as hospitals and laboratories. For those employed by hospitals, night and weekend shifts are possible. Lab technicians must be careful to avoid contamination between samples and protect themselves from exposure to diseases and the chemicals they use in analysis.

These professionals should have the ability to work under pressure, verbal and written communication skills, strong attention to detail, and the ability to maintain and operate laboratory equipment.

In 2016, PayScale.com reported that histology technicians earned a median annual salary of $46,939.

Degree Level Associate's degree or certificate
Degree Field Histology, histotechnology
Licensure/Certification Licensure required in some states; voluntary certification is available through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
Key Skills Problem solving skills; patience; ability to work under pressure; verbal and written communication skills; detail-oriented; must be able to operate and maintain laboratory equipment, such as microtomes and tissue processors
Salary $46,939 (median for histology/histologic technicians as of September 2016)

Sources: National Society for Histotechnology, Community College of Rhode Island, University of North Dakota, O*NET Online, PayScale.com

Get Education

Entry-level positions as histology assistants generally require the completion of an associate's degree or certificate program at a 2-year college. Aspiring histology assistants who choose to complete a certificate program can find programs accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).

These programs take about a year to complete and cover subjects such as histology, immunology, and medical ethics, among others. They also require a hands-on learning component. Students who choose to complete a NAACLS-accredited associate's degree program receive supervised histology training in a health facility. Graduates of an associate's degree program often receive an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree with a major in histology.

Step 2: Obtain State Licensure

Some states require that histology assistants apply for licensure, while other states require laboratory facilities to license their technicians. Depending on the state, licensure requirements could include completion of an NAACLS-accredited degree program or equivalent experience as well as payment of a license fee.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Many employers prefer histology assistants to earn certification through an organization such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification (BOC). To obtain ASCP certification, individuals are required to complete an NAACLS-accredited histology assistant program or earn a specified number and type of college credits, combined with at least one year of professional histopathology experience in an approved lab.

Candidates must also pass a certification exam, which measures such areas as technical knowledge, laboratory techniques, communication skills, and problem-solving abilities.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain certification. Histology assistants must complete a Certification Maintenance Program (CMP) every three years. Formal continuing education courses, college coursework, and online self-instructional courses are some methods that assistants may use to earn CMP points.

Once again, aspring histology assistants should complete an associate's degree or a certificate program in the field, before getting licensed and/or certified and finding work in a lab.

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