Certified Med Tech Education Requirements and Career Information
Certified medical technologists, or med techs, handle the analysis of various bodily fluids and other specimens. Pathologists and other doctors depend on certified med techs to provide accurate test results, which may be a crucial part of a patient's diagnosis and treatment. Certified med techs are employed throughout the health care industry, from doctors' offices to laboratories in hospitals, universities and government research facilities.
Education Requirements for Certified Med Techs
Certified med techs typically are trained through associate's or bachelor's degree programs in medical technology or clinical or medical laboratory science. Additionally, some learn through a combination of schooling and on-the-job training, and a few certified med techs gain their skills entirely from field experience, although this is rare.
Med techs who aspire to perform complex tests must meet education requirements mandated by federal law. The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments require that medical technicians who perform complicated medical tests and procedures have an associate's degree at minimum.
The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) recognizes educational programs in clinical laboratory sciences and related health care fields. NAACLS-accredited programs include both medical technologist and medical laboratory technician programs, which must include a combination of classroom and lab work, as well as supervised, hands-on learning experiences. Med tech programs generally feature classes in immunology, human metabolism, hematology, microbiology and urinalysis.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers the voluntary Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) credential, as well as specialized certifications for med techs who work with blood (phlebotomy), cells (cytotechnology) or in other areas. The American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) also offers Medical Technologist (MT), Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT), Physician Office Laboratory Technician (POLT) and Phlebotomy Technicians (PT) certifications.
Certain states require med techs to earn licensure. Requirements vary but typically include a bachelor's degree from an approved program and passage of an exam.
Certified med techs receive training in the proper handling of specimens for testing. They are part of a health care team and may assist doctors and nurses in selecting the most appropriate tests for diagnosis. Certified med techs analyze test results and perform procedures in many clinical areas, including hematology, urinalysis, immunohematology (blood banking), microbiology and immunology.
Certified med techs usually work in laboratories, often in rotating shifts. Their duties might include matching blood types to prepare a patient for a transfusion or analyzing a patient's bodily fluids to look for bacteria or other microorganisms. Other tests certified med techs are trained to perform include urinalysis, comprehensive metabolic panels (CMP) and complete blood count (CBC). These tests help doctors diagnose and treat patients, as well as verifying the efficacy of applied treatments. Though they may work with infectious specimens, certified med techs take safety precautions and wear protective gear to minimize hazards.
According to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS), clinical and medical laboratory technicians made a median salary of $38,400 in 2008 (www.ascls.org). The amount often depended on geographic location. The ASCLS reported a shortage of medical technicians in many parts of the nation, which it said was likely to result in greater opportunities and higher salaries for job seekers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) projected excellent employment prospects for clinical laboratory workers, a group that includes certified med techs. Jobs for clinical laboratory workers were predicted to increase by 14% from 2008 through 2018, largely due to increased demand for medical services and the development of new tests. These jobs were expected to be primarily in hospitals, but there should also be a growing need for certified med techs in other settings, including diagnostic labs and doctor's offices.
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