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Clinical Laboratory Technician and Technologists

Clinical (Medical) Laboratory Technician and Technologist

Clinical laboratory personnel examine and test body fluids and cells.

Clinical laboratory personnel examine and test body fluids and cells.

If you’ve ever had a blood sample drawn, you’ve probably met a clinical laboratory technician before. They are the people responsible for collecting and testing most specimens in the lab. Their job is not for the squeamish — it involves blood, urine, stool, tissue samples, and, of course, needles. However, if you enjoy chemistry experiments and biology labs, then a career as a clinical laboratory technician may be for you.

Clinical laboratory technologists (also known as medical laboratory scientists) and clinical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Fast Facts

Minimum Degree/Certification Requirement: Certificate in Clinical Laboratory Sciences

Vital Skills/Knowledge: Attention to detail, fine motor skills, patient interaction

Average Starting Salary: $34,300 a year

Job Description

In a hospital setting, there are always tests that need to be run. From basic blood-typing to determining if a tissue sample is cancerous, there is no end to the specimens that go in and out of the lab. A technician’s job ranges from collecting the samples to preparing them for testing to analyzing the results. The larger the facility, the more likely a technician is to specialize in a particular test or sample type.

Because many tests need read at odd hours, some technicians work nightshift and weekends, making it a more flexible job than others. However, regardless of the shift they work, technicians need to be precise and accurate. Their duties might include:

  • Collecting samples from multiple patients and logging/labeling them accurately
  • Preparing slides for examination under the microscope
  • Analyzing the chemical and hormone content of samples
  • Cutting and staining tissue samples for examination

Technicians spend much of the day on their feet, and they may be required to move equipment or assist patients with limited mobility during sample collection.

Education:

Educational requirements for technologists and technicians differ. Medical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Technicians usually need an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed or registered.

Most clinical laboratory technicians earn an associate’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences from an accredited college, university, or technical program. However, depending on the hospital and the state, sometimes only a certificate is necessary. Common courses include:

  • Clinical Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Hematology
  • Immunology

Interested high school students should have a solid science background, with an emphasis on chemistry and biology, as well as good language and communication skills.

Certification/ Licensing:

Certification is required by some employers, and it is usually available at local teaching hospitals and/or vocational schools.  Other states require technicians to have a license, which requires a bachelors degree in laboratory sciences, and the successful completion of an exam.

Pay

The median annual wage of medical laboratory technologists was $56,130 in May 2010. The median annual wage of medical laboratory technicians was $36,280 in May 2010.

Job Outlook: Good

There is an expected 15% increase in employment for clinical laboratory technologists between the years 2010 and 2020. It’s an ever-growing field, with plenty of room for passionate, dedicated young professionals.

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