How to Become a Medical Laboratory Technician
Mar 16, 2015 | 12:00 pm
Do you like the idea of analyzing samples in a medical laboratory and working with some of the latest medical technology? If so, this might be a great career choice for you. The demand for medical lab techs continues to increase as employment growth for the field skyrockets. So what does it take to work in a medical laboratory as a technician?
Earning an associate degree in a clinical laboratory science is the starting point for a career as a medical laboratory technician, notes the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For those who hold a degree in a related field, such as nursing or chemistry, some hospitals or vocational schools offer certificate programs to help bridge the gap in credits.
Ensure that your associate degree program is from an accredited institution approved by a nationally recognized agency, such as The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Holding a degree from an accredited program is a requirement for licensure and medical laboratory technician certification later down the road.
The Right Credentials
With a two-year degree in hand, medical lab techs can go on to get a general certification or specialize in a specific field, such as cytotechnology or medical biology. The BLS notes that while certification is not required to enter the occupation in every case, employers typically prefer to hire certified medical laboratory technicians.
And, another good reason to get certified: In some states, having certification is required to get licensed. Licensure is a separate step altogether, and if it’s required by your state, you will need to get licensed before working as a medical laboratory technician.
Gaining work experience in a medical laboratory is a great first step toward your career future. Places to look include hospitals, private clinics, research labs, physicians’ offices and forensic labs. Finding a position that allows you to use your skills is ideal, so look for medical lab technical positions that require some or all of the following duties:
•Analyzing blood and other bodily fluids
•Recording findings from tests
•Using medical laboratory equipment
•Preparing specimens and blood samples
•Communicating results with technologists, physicians or surgeons
With experience, medical laboratory technicians can become specialized in certain areas of medicine, advancing their careers that way, or they can continue their studies for clinical advancement. According to the BLS, as of 2012, medical lab techs earned a median annual wage of $37,240.
American Medical Technologists, a nationally recognized certification agency for allied health professionals, says that since the start of this profession in the 1920s, medical laboratory technicians have played a vital role in the diagnosis and prevention of disease. If this sounds like the career for you, go for it! The field is ready to welcome qualified applicants to the profession.