The role of medical laboratory technicians is to process and gather human specimen samples for diagnostic purposes. Medical technologists, a more advanced job but similar, will supervise the work performed. Associate of Science (A.S.) degree programs are most commonly offered.
A.S. Programs in Medical Laboratory Technology
Students enrolled in a 2-year associate’s degree program in medical laboratory technology are trained to accomplish certification and seek entry-level occupations as medical lab technicians in the health care industry. Coursework in such a program initially focuses on the rudiments of laboratory science, microbiology, general chemistry and biology. The later stage of the program requires students to spend hours in laboratory experiences becoming adept at storing and handling specimen samples, taking patients’ blood and following hospital clinical lab procedures.
Students enrolled in most degree programs in medical laboratory technology are required to participate in a clinical internship session at the lab of a health care setting to gain practical skills and hands-on experience related to the field. These include learning to operate and maintain lab equipment, demonstrate communication skills with patients and medical personnel, gather biological specimens, perform tests on body fluids and follow lab safety regulations and protocols.
Incoming students seeking enrollment into a degree program in medical laboratory technology would benefit by completing classes in mathematics, chemistry and biology, chemistry and mathematics, in addition to any other high school level classes that include a lab component. They are also expected to have a minimum GPA of 2.0.
Coursework related to an associate’s degree program in medical technology comprises two aspects: clinical experience and general science. Coursework that falls into both categories may include topic areas such as:
Job and Wage Outlook
In 2012, there were nearly 325,800 medical and clinical laboratory technicians employed in the United States in various health care organizations including physicians’ offices, diagnostic medical labs, and general and surgical hospitals (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). During that year, medical equipment manufacturing firms and dentists offices ranked among the highest paying employers in the field (BLS). In 2012, general, medical and clinical laboratory technicians took home an average annual wage of $47,820.
Certification is not mandatory for medical lab technicians; however certification or licensure is required in some states. Certification options in the field are offered by both the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel and the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Through additional education, such as through enrollment into a bachelor’s degree program in medical laboratory science, lab technicians can seek career advancement and aspire for lab technologist positions.