Histologic technicians make sure that samples of organic tissue are prepared properly for pathology professionals' handling. Learn about educational requirements, employment outlook, degree programs and courses of study.
Histologists use medical equipment to create human or animal tissue samples, which are then examined by pathologists for medical diagnosis or research. As a histological technician, you'd operate precision equipment, prepare tissue samples and use special stains to make the samples more visible. Good hand-eye coordination is important. You'd need to pay scrupulous attention to detail to be sure samples are done correctly, and carefully follow safety protocols to protect yourself and others from potentially infectious materials. Effective communication skills are useful, since histologists work on a team of medical specialists.
Histology jobs can be found in a variety of settings, including hospitals, forensics labs, veterinary labs and medical research labs. The U.S. Department of Labor's career database, O*NET OnLine, projects a job growth rate of 8%-14% for clinical laboratory technologists in general between 2012 and 2022; this group includes histologic technicians (www.onetonline.org). The annual median pay rate for this career was $58,430 in 2013.
Education requirements vary based on your job responsibilities. O*NET reported in 2010 that roughly half of those histology technicians who responded to its survey have an associate's degree. To enroll in a histology program, you might have to fulfill prerequisites in chemistry, biology and math. Once in the program, you'd take histology courses, such as cellular biology, fixation chemistry, immunohistochemical staining and microtomy. Clinical practice in the campus lab and laboratory facilities would be a big part of your associate's degree in histology program. Other course topics might include biomedical ethics, bacteriology and clinical chemistry. An associate's degree in clinical laboratory technology might also be a good choice if you aspire to become a histological technician. You can pursue advancement opportunities, such as a histology technologist position, with a bachelor's degree and some experience.
You may need to be licensed to perform medical laboratory work in some states. Additionally, you might improve your job opportunities by becoming certified by a professional organization, such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology. You can obtain this voluntary histotechnician certification after completing required college courses or a degree program and passing an exam (www.ascp.org).