Clinical Lab Technician: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become a clinical lab technician. Learn about job duties, employment outlook, salary and education requirements 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 Is a Clinical Lab Technician?

Clinical lab technicians perform laboratory tests that help detect and diagnose illnesses. They will analyze various samples from the body and report any abnormal findings. This often involves using complex laboratory equipment, automated equipment and computerized instruments to conduct multiple tests at once. Clinical lab technicians must keep detailed records and record any results into a patient's medical history, as well as discuss the results with the patient's doctors. These professionals may be involved in training other fellow technicians on various techniques in the lab. For clinical lab technicians working in a larger facility, they may have the option to specialize in a particular field like microbiology or clinical chemistry. The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know about entering this profession.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Clinical laboratory technology
Key Responsibilities Perform tests on blood, tissue & other samples to help diagnose diseases &/or medical conditions
Certification/Licensure Required Licensing requirements vary by state; voluntary certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 18% for all medical and clinical laboratory technicians*
Average Salary (2015) $41,420 for all medical and clinical laboratory technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Will I Do as a Clinical Lab Technician?

As a clinical lab technician, you'll perform simple tests and lab procedures; clinical lab technologists perform the more complicated tests. In some cases you may complete computerized or automated tests or prepare samples for other technicians. For instance, you may stain cells or tissue samples for pathologists and cytotechnologists (technologists who study cells for abnormalities and disease).

You may work in many areas of a clinical lab, or specialize in one area. For example, phlebotomists are specialized clinical lab technicians who collect blood samples from patients. You'll work in hospitals or laboratories with possibly infectious materials. You must be able to use masks, gloves and goggles for protection.

What is the Job Outlook for this Career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for clinical lab technicians are expected to grow 18% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the average for all U.S. occupations (www.bls.gov). This increase is expected because of an aging population with a greater need for medical tests. In addition, there is increased access to medical insurance and services due to changes in federal healthcare laws.

In 2015, the employers with the greatest number of clinical lab technicians were hospitals, medical labs and physician offices. The BLS also reported that as of May 2015, clinical lab technicians made a yearly average of $41,420, with the five top-paying states being Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Alaska and New Jersey.

What Must I Study?

Since clinical lab technicians are a step beneath clinical lab technologists, you will not need to earn the bachelor's degree that they do. In fact, if you earn a bachelor's degree, you can then seek employment as a technologist. Consider a clinical lab technician training program that leads to an associate degree.

Some states also require licensing or registration; requirements vary by state. Once you've graduated, you can pursue certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology as a technician (www.ascp.org). To sit for this examination, you'll need to have completed an associate degree, clinical laboratory experience, a training program or a combination of the three.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Chemical technicians and veterinary technologists and technicians are some related career options. These positions require an associate's degree and place a heavy emphasis on science. Chemical technicians work with chemists and chemical engineers to research, create and test various kinds of chemical processes or products. Veterinary technologists and technicians work under a licensed veterinarian to perform medical tests to diagnose and help treat their animal patients.

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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