What Is a Medical Lab Tech?

A medical lab tech works in hospital laboratories and other clinical settings, performing laboratory procedures on blood, tissue and bodily fluids. Read on to learn more about these professionals' job duties, education requirements and career outlook. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, a medical lab tech, also called a medical laboratory technician, uses instruments such as microscopes, chemicals, computers and high-tech laboratory equipment to perform routine laboratory procedures on blood, tissue and other bodily fluids. This type of medical professional usually works under the supervision of a medical laboratory scientist or pathologist who specializes in biological sciences.

Important Facts About Medical Lab Technicians

Key Skills Knowledge of technology usage, attention to detail, dexterity, stamina
Licensure Licensure is required in several states
Similar Occupations Chemist, veterinary technologist, clinical laboratory scientist
Professional Certification General and specialty certification is available; some states require certification in order to be licensed

Common Duties

A medical lab tech examines and analyzes bodily fluids and cells. With increased computer technology and automation, these professionals perform less hands-on work and concentrate more on analytical tasks. One's job responsibilities are determined by level of education and years of experience. Tasks that a medical lab tech performs include:

  • Searching for and identifying bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms
  • Analyzing the chemical content of fluids
  • Matching blood for transfusions
  • Testing for the level of drugs in a patient's system to determine if he or she is responding to treatment
  • Recording test results in a patient's medical record
  • Sharing and discussing test results with doctors
  • Managing other lab techs and providing training

Education and Certification

While a medical lab technologist usually has to earn a bachelor's degree, an entry-level position as a medical lab technician typically requires a clinical laboratory science associate's degree. Some courses in a program might include chemistry, biological sciences, microbiology, mathematics and statistics. An aspiring medical lab tech should also take courses focused on the knowledge and skills used in the clinical laboratory.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects rapid job growth and excellent job opportunities for medical lab technicians. Employment is expected to rise by 18% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. An increase in laboratory procedures due to an increase in older patients will drive growth during this period. In 2012, the BLS reported that approximately half of technicians and technologists worked in hospitals, while the rest mostly worked in laboratories, physicians' offices and postsecondary schools.

Salary Information

In 2015, the average wage of a medical and clinical laboratory technician was $36,946 annually, reported by Payscale.com. According to the BLS, earnings for most ranged from $25,500-$59,750 in 2014. General hospitals offered technicians an average wage of $41,210, while laboratories offered a lower average wage of $40,180. The average wage was $40,660 for physicians' offices.

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