Medical Lab Technician Education Requirements
Medical laboratory technology, also known as clinical laboratory technology, is a fast-growing field. Medical lab technicians conduct tests and procedures, usually under the supervision of more experienced professionals. Duties may include matching blood for transfusions, counting white blood cells and determining the concentration of prescription drugs in a patient's blood sample.
Educational Requirements for a Medical Lab Technician
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that medical lab technicians may be trained on-the-job, the bureau also reports that most receive formal education through a certificate or associate's degree program (www.bls.gov). The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) approves these educational programs, which are generally offered by junior colleges and vocational schools (www.naacls.org). Those who complete these programs generally go on to work for healthcare laboratory facilities.
Admissions for Postsecondary Programs
Prospective candidates must earn their high school diploma or its equivalent prior to applying. Some programs recommend that applicants complete mathematics and science courses while in high school. This may include algebra, biology and chemistry.
While certificate programs in medical laboratory sciences generally last one year, associate's degree programs may take 1-2 years to complete. Both programs typically begin by introducing students to medical laboratory equipment and data analysis. Students may also be required to take sequences of courses in histology, microbiology and biochemistry. These classes may delve into topics ranging from cell tissues to parasites and viruses.
In addition, programs might explore topics in phlebotomy, hematology and immune hematology. Students may learn techniques for examining bodily fluids and using lab equipment to search for problems with samples. Programs also include clinical practicums, which may include on-the-job training in urinalysis and mycology.
Once training is complete, students are eligible to earn certifications offered by credentialing organizations, such as the American Medical Technologists and the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Certification generally requires passing a qualifying examination. Credentialing organizations may provide exam preparation material via their websites. Once certified, these professionals may need to complete continuing education requirements.
Employment Projections and Salary
The BLS reported that medical and clinical laboratory technicians earned an average annual salary of $39,340 as of May 2012. Employment opportunities for these technicians were expected to increase at a rate of 15% from 2010-2020. This average job growth was attributed to the need for diagnostic services among the country's growing elderly population.
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