Phlebotomist: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a phlebotomist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Phlebotomist Do?

Phlebotomists draw blood and other bodily fluids from patients for laboratory testing. They must efficiently manage samples and patient information. Most phlebotomists work in medical centers, such as hospitals or laboratories, but some may travel to various sites to set up blood drives. To work as a phlebotomist, you typically need a certificate or associate's degree; some employers may also prefer you to have industry certification. The following chart gives you an overview about becoming a phlebotomist.

Degree Required Post-secondary diploma or certificate
Education Field of Study Phlebotomy
Key Responsibilities Verify patient identity; assemble and maintain blood drawing equipment; draw patient blood; accurately label blood sample
Certification Professional certification is preferred by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 25%*
Median Salary (2015) $31,630*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Phlebotomist?

A phlebotomist is in charge of collecting blood and other specimen samples from medical patients. As a phlebotomist, you draw blood using methods such as the venipuncture procedure; this is a common bloodletting procedure using a tourniquet placed above the drawing site and a butterfly needle. This technique allows you to fill tubes containing different additives for different lab tests.

What Duties Might I Have?

Besides using the venipuncture procedure, you label the tubes of blood and send them to laboratories for analysis. You must follow safety procedures when disposing of used needles and syringes and, since you will handle possibly infectious samples, you must wear protective gear, like masks and gloves, to prevent accidents. Phlebotomists must also have effective communication skills to comfort patients and help them understand the procedures being performed.

What Education Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you typically need to complete a postsecondary nondegree program related to phlebotomy or clinical laboratory technology (www.bls.gov). Many colleges offer programs in this field that include courses to introduce you to medical terminology, human anatomy and human relations. Along with learning the basics of drawing blood, you study safety procedures and medical information systems. Phlebotomist programs may also put you into a clinic where you practice drawing blood and complying with safety procedures. These programs typically have no prerequisites other than a high school diploma or GED, though some programs may also require you to submit proof of certain immunizations.

Do I Need Certification?

Employers may prefer to hire lab technicians, including phlebotomists, who are certified, reports the BLS. Many certificate and degree programs prepare you to sit for the certification exams from organizations such as the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA), the American Society for Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) or American Medical Technologists (AMT). Certification often requires you to meet specific education and experience requirements, as well as pass an exam.

What's the Job Outlook?

The BLS has projected that employment for phlebotomists will grow by 25% between 2014 and 2024. The rapid growth is attributed to a large number of open positions due to retirements or job change, as well as an increasing need for more tests for the growing population.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many related career fields that also require postsecondary nondegree education. Medical assistants work alongside other medical staff, managing patient data and carrying out basic tasks, such as administering injections and handling blood samples. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians perform tests on blood samples sent to the lab in which they work, and while they can often find work with nondegree education, some employers may require applicants to hold an associate's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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