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Cytotechnologist Education Requirements and Career Info

Cytotechnologists microscopically study cells and search for early signs of disease. These diseases can include cancer as well as bacterial and viral infections.

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Education Requirements for a Cytotechnologist

A good foundation in high school sciences is the first step toward becoming a cytotechnologist. Classes in chemistry, biology and mathematics are typical prerequisites before moving forward to college-level coursework.

To pursue a career in cytotechnology, students must complete an accredited program in the field. According to the American Society for Cytotechnology (www.asct.com), there are currently 48 programs nationwide that are accredited in cytotechnology, and all are university- or hospital-based lasting 1-2 years. Accreditation bodies for these programs are the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Students will learn principles of cytology, embryology, human anatomy, endocrinology, parasitology, cytochemistry, clinical medicine, immunology, histology, inflammatory diseases and other related areas within these programs. Individuals typically complete a cytotechnology program alongside a bachelor's degree with a concentration in biology and chemistry coursework, which is essentially a combination of clinical and formal education.

Once these requirements are met, students become eligible to take the certification examination administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Upon passing this test, professionals can use the CT designation after their names to signify endorsement as a certified technologist and to guarantee proficiency in the field of cytotechnology.

Career Information

The University of North Dakota's School of Medicine and Health Services (www.med.und.edu) states that the number of cytotechnologist job opportunities currently exceeds the number of those seeking employment in the field, so ASCP-certified technologists should have little trouble finding open positions at hospitals, clinics or physicians' offices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), average hourly wages for cytotechnologists fell between $26 and $28 per hour in 2007, depending upon specialties and laboratory types (www.bls.gov).

The BLS also notes that projected job growth in this field will be excellent, with cytotechnologists having the freedom to choose their practice settings. The introduction of automation within cytotechnology has not slowed the demand for technologists. Those with several years of experience who are willing to earn master's or doctoral degrees can move on to become specialists in cytotechnology, which opens doors to prominent jobs in the field with significantly higher pay.

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