Cytogenetics Certification and Education Programs
Cytogenetic technologists help diagnose genetic disorders. Read on to learn more about the education and training paths that can prepare you for licensing and certification. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Training Do I Need for a Career in Cytogenetics?
A variety of educational paths can lead to professional certification as a cytogenetic technologist, which, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is expected by many employers (www.bls.gov). A bachelor's degree with at least 30 semester hours in biology, chemistry or health sciences is the minimum requirement. Your major may be in biology or chemistry; some schools offer undergraduate programs in cytogenetic technology or clinical lab science. If you earn graduate degrees in molecular biology or genetics, you're also eligible to become certified. Without field-specific training, however, you need nine months to a year of experience in an accredited cytogenetics lab.
If your major is in another field - but you take sufficient courses in biology, chemistry and math - you can still become certified by completing a cytogenetics training program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). These are typically 1-year certificate programs you complete after earning your bachelor's degree. The certificate programs are often made possible by partnerships between universities and medical centers. Because of the sophisticated laboratory equipment involved, distance education courses aren't offered for cytotechnologist programs.
What Courses Can I Expect?
Cytogenetic technology programs focus primarily on preparing you for professional certification. Courses cover culturing and harvesting specimens, genetic disorders of the blood and bone marrow, congenital disorders, prenatal cytogenetics and chromosomal imaging. Cytogenetics programs may show you how to help find matching transplant donors, identify birth defects and recognize molecular changes caused by disease. Accredited programs include clinical practicums in which you perform supervised work in a cytogenetics lab.
What Are the Requirements for Licensure and Certification?
Some states require licensure to practice as a cytogenetic technologist. Licensure is typically awarded when you complete an accredited bachelor's degree program and pass a state occupational exam. To find the specific requirements for your state, consult the department of health or board of occupational licensing. Some states, including New York and California, may use the same exam that's used by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) for certification.
Since many employers prefer cytogenetic technologists to be certified, you may give strong consideration to earning this professional distinction. The main certification for cytogenetic technologists is offered by the ASCP. To become certified, you need to complete an accredited bachelor's program and pass an exam that covers topics such as chromosomal imaging, specimen preparation and safety standards (www.ascp.org). Continuing education is required for recertification, which is necessary every three years.
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