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Lab Tech: Educational Overview for Becoming a Laboratory Technician

Oct 20, 2021

Lab technicians work in hospitals, labs and clinical settings assisting with medical testing. The projected job growth for lab technicians is much faster than for the job market as a whole, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, making this a solid career choice.

Essential Information

Lab technicians, also referred to as clinical and medical laboratory technicians, perform and help with medical testing procedures and analysis. They generally work in hospitals, clinical settings and independent labs. Entry-level employment usually requires a certificate or associate's degree in medical laboratory technology, and those seeking advancement may earn a bachelor's degree in this field. Clinical practice is often included in such programs. States may have additional requirements for lab technicians, such as licensure or registration, and earning a certification may help meet these requirements.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree for entry-level employment; bachelor's degree for advancement
Other Requirements State licensure or registration sometimes necessary; voluntary certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 7% for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians
Median Salary (2020)* $54,180 annually for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Overview for a Lab Tech

Associate Degree Programs

Although some lab techs may be trained on the job, most complete a certificate or associate's degree to enter the field. These 6-24 month programs are offered by community colleges and vocational schools, and may begin with courses in medical terminology, anatomy and laboratory techniques. Students may learn concepts and procedures ranging from urinalysis to hematology. As such, courses may help students to use lab equipment to collect and analyze blood and other fluids.

Clinical Practice

Programs may also include a clinical practice that allows students to hone their lab skills. During these experiences, students may rotate through microbiology and hematology labs or departments to gain broad experience in analysis.

Certification Information

The American Medical Technologists certify qualified candidates as medical laboratory technicians (www.americanmedtech.org). To be considered, applicants must complete either an associate's degree program in a field related to medical technology, or earn at least 60 semester hours, with at least 25 hours in medical technology, science or math. Eligible applicants can then take an exam in order to earn their credentials. Certified professionals must complete continuing education credits to maintain their credentials.

Advancement

Lab techs may become laboratory technicians through job experience or by completing a 4-year bachelor's degree program in medical technology or a related field. Course work may include pathology, clinical chemistry and body fluid analysis. Programs may also include laboratory management courses in which students may discuss topics ranging from research studies to lab operations.

Students who complete the program are prepared for the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification exam. Most programs offer some laboratory experience as part of the curriculum, and some may include a required internship with a clinical lab. Graduates are prepared to enter the career field immediately.

Lab technicians usually complete an accredited certificate or associate's degree program. Some states require lab technicians to be licensed. Certification is available, though not always required.

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