How to Become a Certified Lab Technician in 5 Steps
Explore the career requirements for certified lab technicians. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Career Information At a Glance
Certified lab technicians are specialists who have obtained a credential demonstrating their knowledge and competence to provide lab services, primarily in support of the work of medical professionals. Certified lab technicians perform a varied array of lab-related functions. See the table below for more information about this career option:
|Degree Required||Associate's (2-year) degree (most common), |
|Education Field of Study||Clinical Lab Technician, |
Medical Lab Technician
|Key Responsibilities||Collect fluid and tissue samples from patients, |
Analyze bodily fluids and cell tissues,
Identify disease-carrying organisms and diseased or damaged cells,
Record test results and maintain records,
Maintain lab equipment
|Licensure/Certification||Licensure required by some states,|
Certification is not required but may enhance employment prospects
|Job Growth (2012-2022)||30%*|
|Mean Salary (2013)||$40,240*|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Is a Certified Lab Technician?
Your specific duties as a technician include collecting fluid and tissue samples; analyzing the composition and content of blood, urine and other fluids; staining and examining cell tissue; identifying disease-carrying organisms and diseased or damaged cells; and recording test results. You also maintain records of lab tests and set up, calibrate and maintain lab equipment.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
High school courses in algebra, chemistry, physics and computers can help you to acquire basic technical competencies that prepare you for college courses or for work in a lab. Courses in English and speech are also helpful for developing your communication skills in preparation for the career.
Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree
A 2-year clinical lab technician or medical lab technician associate's degree is the minimum level of education you need to become a lab technician. Associate's degree programs in laboratory technology use a combination of classroom study and practical instruction in a simulated lab to prepare you for work in a professional lab. Many programs also feature a clinical internship. Course topics address bacteriology, hematology, microbiology, lab procedures and lab safety.
Step 3: Obtain Certification
It isn't required, but you can improve your prospects for employment and advancement if you have certification. Two industry organizations that offer a Medical Lab Technician credential are the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Association of Bioanalysts (ABB).
To be eligible for the ABB certification exam you need at least one year of full time lab experience and either an associate's degree or completion of a 50-week military medical lab technician course (www.abb.org). ASCP certification requires an associate's degree and either three years of experience or completion of a 50-week military lab tech training program (www.ascp.org). Both exams test your knowledge of chemistry, hematology, immunology and microbiology.
Step 4: Obtain a Job
Hospitals, medical labs and physicians' offices are the leading prospects for employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Ambulatory health care services and postsecondary schools also provide a small number of opportunities.
From 2012 to 2022, employment was projected to grow 22% to about 325,800 for medical and clinical lab techs, a rate that is faster than average and that suggests job prospects will be good. The mean annual salary was $40,240 as of May 2013.
In some states, you need a license to work as a lab technician. Licensure usually entails passing an exam and holding a bachelor's degree.
Step 5: Advance Your Career
With a bachelor's degree and further experience, you can become a lab technologist and then potentially a lab manager or supervisor. A post-baccalaureate certificate or graduate degree in a relevant subject, such as management, the biological sciences or medical technology, can improve your chances for promotion. You could also transition into a marketing or product development position with a lab equipment manufacturer. A doctorate would enable you to become a lab director.
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