How to Become a Lab Technologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a lab technologist. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as a lab technologist.

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Should I Become a Lab Technologist?

Medical laboratory technologists, also called lab technologists, work in medical facilities and are responsible for collecting and analyzing blood samples, tissues, and bodily fluids. The results of these tests are used to determine normal and abnormal findings in patients. Physicians receive these reports and interpret the findings.

Some places of employment for these professionals, such as medical labs and hospitals, are open 24 hours a day, which will require technologists to work graveyard, weekend, and holiday shifts. Technologists must often work with infectious substances, but proper safety precautions pose little risks for them. The job typically requires several hours standing.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Licensure/Certification Some states require licensure
Key Skills In order to work in the field, lab technologists need to be detail-oriented and good with their hands; understand how to use complex laboratory equipment such as cell counters, automated instruments, and microscopes
Median Salary (May 2018)* $52,330

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Lab Technologist Job Steps

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students enrolled in a medical laboratory science bachelor's degree program take courses in a variety of disciplines, such as chemistry, immunology, microbiology, hematology, and biology. Courses in the program include immunology, clinical chemistry, molecular diagnosis, organic chemistry, and physics. Several laboratory requirements must also be fulfilled to work in the field. Students develop a variety of clinical skills that prepare them to work in a laboratory setting, including cognitive and psychomotor skills.

Step 2: Complete Clinical Training

Medical laboratory science courses require students to complete clinical training in a medical facility. This is an opportunity for students to begin working in a professional setting under the supervision of an experienced lab technologist. Initially, students may perform nominal duties, but as they gain experience, they'll be given a chance to perform more complex tasks. Students learn how to handle specimens, protect against infectious samples, promote a safe work environment, and create lab reports.

Step 3: Pass the Certification Exam

The Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers certification for medical lab technologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, certification may be required for licensure in some states, and employers typically prefer to hire applicants who have earned certification. In order to earn certification, technologists need to graduate from an accredited bachelor's degree program and pass an examination.

Step 4: Gain Experience and Earn Additional Certifications

Earning multiple certifications and gaining experience in a specialized area of lab technology may lead to additional career opportunities. Specialized certifications are available through the ASCP in blood banking, cytogenetics, hematology, microbiology, and more.

In summary, lab technologists need a bachelor's degree related to medical laboratory technology, and they may peruse certification and licensure.

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