Clinical Specialist: Job Description & Requirements

Keep reading to learn more about what a clinical specialist does. See what the education and training requirements are, and get details about career prospects and earning potential for this job.

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Career Definition

Clinical specialists often work in laboratories as part of a team of technologists, technicians, and supervisors to carry out clinical lab tests. Clinical specialists are a critical link in noticing, identifying, treating, and monitoring illnesses. While the precise duties of a clinical specialist will vary by training and place of employment, they usually specialize in one or several lab tests or procedures, including looking for bacteria or parasites, analyzing fluids, testing for drug levels, preparing specimens, counting cells, and making cultures.

Become a Clinical Specialist

Education Requirements

The education requirements to become a clinical specialist will vary by the place of employment and the duties to be performed. Typically, a bachelor's degree in a field like medical technology, biology, chemistry, or another of the life sciences is required. Common classes in a 4-year, bachelor's degree program include biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, mathematics, biostatistics, and physiology. Additional training in specific lab techniques or a state license may be necessary in some states and places of employment.

Required Skills

Clinical specialists usually carry out a relatively narrow range of duties or tests repeatedly; if you want to become a clinical specialist, you should be prepared to focus exclusively on honing a small set of skills and techniques. A career in clinical science also requires precision, good communications skills and the ability to work well with colleagues.

Employment and Economic Outlook

The employment outlook for clinical lab technicians and technologists, which includes clinical specialists, is decent compared to all occupations; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) projects employment in this field to grow 22% from 2012-2022. Median earnings for clinical technologists were $57,580 in May 2012.

Alternative Career Options

Biological Technician

A biological technician conducts experiments that assist biological scientists and medical scientists with their research. Using specialized instruments, they collect and analyze samples, writing up their test results for sharing with the group. Biological technicians have a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field; employers strongly prefer candidates with a lot of hands-on lab experience. Job growth for biological technicians is expected to be 10% from 2010-2022, according to the BLS, which is about equal to all jobs during that same decade. The median pay rate for biological technicians was $39,750 in 2012, per the BLS.

Chemical Technician

A chemical technician assists chemists and chemical engineers in their research. Chemical technicians carry out experiments and research in fields like quality control, medical research, and environmental science. They analyze and interpret their findings and compose reports to share with others. Chemical technicians usually have an associate's degree in applied science or a related field with an emphasis on lab work. On-the-job training is common. The BLS reports that chemical technicians can expect job growth of 9% from 2012-2022, and that chemical technicians earned median pay of $42,920 in 2012.

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    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Michigan State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
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        • Clinical Laboratory Sciences
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    • Wisconsin (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Marquette University include:
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      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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    • Iowa (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Iowa include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
        • Clinical Laboratory Sciences
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
      • Dental
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    • Mississippi (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Mississippi State University include:
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    • Tennessee (2 campuses)
    Areas of study you may find at The University of Tennessee include:
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        • Clinical Laboratory Sciences
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    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at George Washington University include:
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        • Clinical Laboratory Sciences
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