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Phlebotomy: Summary of How to Become a Phlebotomist

A phlebotomist is a healthcare professional who is trained to draw blood from a patient in a safe and sanitary manner. Phlebotomists may draw blood samples for tests or collect blood donations. Formal training and education, and often certification or licensure, are required in order to become a phlebotomist.

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Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma or its Equivalent

The basis for obtaining future education or training in this field is the completion of a high-school level education. Earning a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED, is a basic pre-requisite for entering a phlebotomy training program. You must be 18 years of age in order to enter a program as well.

Step 2: Complete a Phlebotomy Training Program

Those interested in phlebotomy often enroll in a program at a college or a technical school. During these short-term, often less than one year, programs, students learn how to draw blood and how to properly interact with patients. Common courses include lab safety, equipment disposal and possible legal issues.

Students will balance classroom learning with hands-on training in a hospital or another clinical environment. Successful completion of repeated disease tests and skin punctures is also necessary in order to demonstrate proficiency.

Step 3: Obtain Certification and Licensure

After completing an education program, students can choose to become certified professionals. Certifications are available from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the American Association of Medical Personnel.

In order to become certified, individuals must meet eligibility requirements set by the organization. For example, the AMT requires candidates to have graduated from an acceptable training program, have completed at least 1,040 hours of work experience and to have successfully passed their certification exam. Employers generally prefer to hire phlebotomists who hold a national certification credential, such as the AMT's Registered Phlebotomy Technician credential.

In addition, some states, such as California, require that phlebotomists be licensed to legally conduct work in the state. Requirements vary by state or specialization; for more information, would-be phlebotomists should check with the occupational licensing or health department in the state in which they plan on working.

Step 4: Gain Employment

Prospective phlebotomists can look for employment at hospitals or private healthcare clinics, where, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities are most readily available. Alternatively, phlebotomists can also seek employment in clinical laboratories, where they work with other medical professionals and laboratory technologists, who screen and test the blood samples that are collected. Employment prospects in any setting are expected to be good; the BLS reported that laboratory technicians, a larger group that includes phlebotomists, are expected to see job growth of 15% from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). A May 2012 BLS report indicated that phlebotomists' mean annual salary was $30,910.

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