The following resource is designed to help you decide if a career as a medical laboratory professional is right for you. Find information about educational requirements for medical laboratory technologists and technicians, pathologists and phlebotomists here, and make an informed decision about your career.
As a medical laboratory technician or technologist, you'll collect data and samples and perform tests to help diagnose, treat and prevent illnesses and other medical conditions. In your position as a medical laboratory technologist, you might also be tasked with supervisor responsibilities. Areas of specialization include cytology, histotechnology, pathology and virology. Medical laboratories can be found in many different settings, such as hospitals, physicians' offices or private facilities.
While some medical laboratory technologists and technicians are generalists, you might also pursue a job as a certified phlebotomist, drawing blood and other samples from patients for the purposes of tests and transfusions. You might also be interested in a career as a pathologist or pathologist's assistant (PA). A pathologist is a physician who analyzes different biological samples and interprets laboratory tests, ensuring their accuracy. Pathologists' assistants are often the first to review tests and samples, after which, the pathologist reviews the results and makes a final diagnosis.
As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of clinical laboratory workers was expected to increase 22%, or much faster than average, from 2012-2022. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technologists was $58,430, while medical and clinical laboratory technicians earned $37,970 (www.bls.gov).
Based upon information provided by Salary.com in May 2014, the median annual salary for pathologists was approximately $247,569, while pathology assistants earned $75,726. According to a salary survey conducted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology in 2013, staff phlebotomists earned an average of $32,448 a year (www.ascp.org).
If you are interested in becoming a medical laboratory technician, you'll need a minimum of an associate's degree in medical laboratory technology or a related field. In addition to courses in chemistry, human anatomy and mathematics, you'll also receive training in hygiene and safety, laboratory procedures and epidemiology. Medical laboratory technologists usually complete a bachelor's degree in clinical lab technology. If you're interested in becoming a phlebotomist, you should be aware in advance that most potential employers look for candidates that have completed a phlebotomy training program, which can usually be found at community colleges and vocational schools.
While a bachelor's degree in pathology can help you qualify for a position as a pathology assistant, you'll need a medical degree to become a pathologist. Prior to applying to medical school, you'll have to complete an undergraduate program in a relevant subject area. As a doctor-in-training, you'll also participate in a medical residency program. Licensing requirements include a passing score on the medical board exam.
Most lab professionals must be certified by a professional licensing board. Continuing education will be required to keep up with the latest advances in technologies and techniques.