Medical Technologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Medical technologists, also known as clinical laboratory technologists, perform and analyze the results of complex scientific tests on blood and bodily fluids. These highly trained professionals work in hospitals and independent laboratories using sophisticated procedures and equipment. When test results are analyzed and completed, medical technologists collaborate with physicians or laboratory directors on patient data.

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Job Description of a Medical Technologist

Medical technologists analyze samples of blood, tissue and body fluids to determine chemical content, cell count, drug levels or blood type; they may also search for specific microorganisms like bacteria or parasites. Preparing the samples for examination, using automated equipment and specialized instrumentation, performing numerous complicated tests simultaneously and accurately interpreting the results are all part of a medical technologists job.

Whether in a medical facility or independently run laboratory, medical technologists often work with infectious specimens. Infection control and sterilization protocols must be followed to minimize these hazards. Medical technologists can also expect to spend many hours standing in a laboratory. Hospital employees often work irregular hours or are on call for emergency situations.

Duties of a Medical Technologist

The day-to-day duties of a medical technologist include complex analysis of microscopic, immunologic, biologic, bacteriologic, hematologic, and chemical tests and their results. Some tasks that a medical technologist might be asked to perform could include:

  • Preparing cultures of tissue samples
  • Establishing and monitoring programs that ensure data accuracy
  • Microscopically examining slides of bodily fluids
  • Cross-matching blood for transfusions
  • Chemically analyzing blood or urine for toxic components
  • Analyzing lab reports for accuracy
  • Operating and calibrating equipment
  • Delivering test results to physicians, researchers or patients
  • Collecting and studying blood samples to determine morphology

Requirements to Become a Medical Technologist

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree is the minimum entry-level requirement for a medical technologist (www.bls.gov). Advancement to laboratory director is a relatively common career step for medical technologists, and this position usually requires a master's degree.

Bachelor's degree programs in medical technology, clinical laboratory science or allied health technologies all prepare students for work in this field. These 4-year programs are heavily focused on the natural sciences and often include an internship. Common course topics include anatomy and physiology, lab management, immunology, clinical microbiology, parasitology and medical ethics.

Certification

Depending on the state, medical technologists may need to be licensed or registered, according to the BLS. This often includes proof of a bachelor's degree and a written exam. State boards of occupational licensure or departments of health administer medical technologist licensure.

While not required, employers may prefer to hire medical technologists who are professionally certified. Specialized medical technologists can become certified through organizations that administer to their specialty. The American Medical Technologists (AMT) agency offers a professional AMT designation. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited program and either a recognized medical technology internship or a year of approved experience to sit for the written examination.

Career and Salary Information for Medical Technologists

The BLS projected that the number of jobs for medical and clinical laboratory technologists would grow at a rate of 14% between 2012-2022. Over 50% of medical and clinical laboratory technologists were employed by hospitals as of 2012, while the rest worked in laboratories, physicians' offices, or colleges and universities. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technologists was $58,430 in 2013.

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