Clinical Lab Scientist: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for clinical lab scientists. Get the facts about job duties, job outlook and education requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Clinical Lab Scientist?

Clinical lab scientists examine specimens taken from the human body to understand and treat diseases. They will analyze various samples from the body to record normal or abnormal findings. These professionals are trained to operate various kinds of complex lab equipment, including automated or computerized equipment designed to perform multiple tests at once. Clinical lab scientists will report their findings to physicians and enter any data necessary into a patient's medical record. Depending on their place of work, they may also oversee the work of other laboratory technicians. Clinical lab scientists may also have the opportunity to specialize in different areas to become things like a microbiology technologist, who strictly works with microorganisms, or an immunology technologist, who studies the human immune system. The following table summarizes key career information for clinical lab scientists.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Medical technology, life sciences
Key Responsibilities Perform tests on specimens, record data, communicate results to physicians, train medical laboratory technicians
Licensure and Certification State licensure may be required; professional certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists*
Average Salary (2015) $61,860 for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Clinical Lab Scientist Career Like?

As a clinical lab scientist, also called a medical technologist, you perform tests in medical laboratories to study and treat diseases. You analyze specimens of cells, tissues and body fluids using microscopes and other medical technology. During research, you observe chemical reactions, examine tissue samples, blood, bacteria, fungi and other microscopic material to help physicians and nurses diagnose diseases and treat patients.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for medical and clinical laboratory technologists is projected to increase by 14% over the 2014-2024 decade ( The major reason behind this expected growth is the aging U.S. population requiring diagnostic tests, as well as increased numbers of Americans with access to health insurance that includes medical care such as lab tests. You may find employment with hospitals, medical laboratories, doctor's offices and other medical lab services.

What Are the Education Requirements?

You need a degree in medical technology or a related science field of study. A typical medical technology program contains courses in cell biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology and bacteriology. College-based degree programs often include a lab internship component in which you will work in a clinic or hospital. Higher-level positions, such as lab director, require advanced degrees.

Some states may require professional certification. Certification may be offered through an organization such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). The ASCP offers multiple certification exams, which typically require proof of work experience and successful completion of an exam. In order to maintain this certification, you must continue your education through the Certification Maintenance Program (CMP). CMP requirements help you to remain abreast of changing technologies and medical advancements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers in the field of science, including biological technicians and chemists and materials scientists. All of these positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Biological technicians will often work under biological or medical scientists. They will help these professionals conduct various experiments and lab tests. Chemists and materials scientists examine substances at the atomic and molecular levels. They will study how these things interact with each other to help create new and better products.

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