Clinical Lab Technologist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for clinical lab technologists. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, licensing and employment outlook 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 Technologist?

Clinical lab technologists play an important role in diagnosing diseases by performing tests and analyses on bodily specimens, such as blood or tissue. To perform the necessary lab tests, they must use complex laboratory equipment, including automated machines that are able to perform multiple tests at once. Clinical lab technologists must take extensive and detailed notes about the procedures and findings to add to medical records and discuss with doctors. These technologists often oversee the work of other lab personnel, such as other technicians. Depending on their place of employment, some clinical lab technologists may specialize in a particular area, such as immunology. Take a look at the chart below for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Medical technology, medical laboratory science, life sciences
Key Responsibilities Conduct lab tests & analyses on patient specimens to aid in diagnosis; supervise lab technicians
Licensure/Certification Licensing requirements vary by state; some employers require professional certification
Job Growth (2018-2028) 11%*
Average Salary (2018) $53,880*

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

What Does a Clinical Lab Technologist Do?

As a worker in this field, you'll be on the front line, examining and analyzing body fluids, matching blood for transfusions and searching for bacteria and parasites. You'll also prepare samples and evaluate test results. However, due to advances in technology, much of the work you'll do will be analytical with little hands-on involvement.

Depending on your place of employment, you may also specialize in certain areas. Some of these specialized job titles include microbiology technologist, blood bank technologist, molecular biology technologist and cytotechnologist. In addition, you may be responsible for overseeing the work of laboratory technicians.

What Are the Requirements for Entering This Field?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some jobs are available with the right amount of education and on-the-job training, but most will require a bachelor's degree with a focus on medical technology or some form of life science. If you'll be performing any type of complex testing, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act requires you to have at least an associate's degree.

For both associate's and bachelor's degrees, some of the courses you'll take include chemistry, microbiology, math and statistics. When choosing an academic program, you should look for programs that are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.

Do I Need to Get Certified?

Depending on the state you're in, you may also need licensure or registration, which typically requires a bachelor's degree and passing an exam. However, requirements will vary, so you'll need to contact the department of health or board of occupational licensing in your state.

In addition, many employers may require you to be certified by a recognized professional association. There are several you can choose from, but all of them have different requirements. These associations include the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Medical Technologists, the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel and the Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts.

What Is the Job Outlook for This Career?

The BLS reports that employment opportunities for clinical lab technologists are excellent and are expected to grow quickly, with an increase of 11% between 2018 and 2028. Salary levels will vary depending on your place of employment, your educational background and your work experience; however, the BLS states that the average annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists was $53,880 as of 2018. During the same year, the biggest employers of clinical lab technologists were hospitals and medical and diagnostic laboratories, while the top-paying states were Rhode Island ($70,380) and Alaska ($67,280).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several laboratory-related careers that require a bachelor's degree, including those of biological technicians, chemists and materials scientists. Biological technicians run various lab tests and perform experiments, usually under the supervision of a biologist or medical scientist. Chemists and materials scientists examine matter at the molecular and atomic levels. They try to explain how materials interact and use their findings to improve products.

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