Clinical Laboratory Manager: Career and Salary Facts

Research how to become a clinical laboratory manager. Learn about job duties, education requirements, employment outlook and salary to find out if this is the job for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Clinical Laboratory Manager?

Clinical laboratory managers perform tests and analysis on biological specimens. Then, they write reports that can be used to help pathologists learn more about diseases or physicians formulate diagnoses. In addition, they may hire, train, supervise and evaluate other laboratory personnel, such as medical laboratory technicians. In smaller labs, they may also supervise the lab's finances and set operating budgets.

The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know about entering the field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Medical lab technology, clinical lab technology
Key Responsibilities Perform and analyze lab tests to assist with diagnosis; oversee lab employees; conduct performance reviews; maintain lab inventory
Licensure Required License, registration and/or certification required by most states
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 14% for all medical and clinical lab technologists*
Median Salary (2017) $95,774 for all laboratory managers**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com.

What Kind of Work Does a Laboratory Manager Perform?

Laboratory managers do much of the same work as the technicians and technologists, cytologists, histologists and others who work there. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that clinical laboratory technologists perform tests on samples of tissue cells and body fluids to check for infectious substances, such as bacteria or parasites, as well as look for cellular abnormalities (www.bls.gov).

As a laboratory professional, you prepare slides of tissues for testing and use microscopes and other complex, computerized equipment to examine, test and analyze the samples. These findings are then reported back to the physician who ordered the tests. The tests help the doctor make a more accurate diagnosis of a disease so that the correct treatment can be prescribed.

In addition to supervising personnel with testing and other procedures, as a manager, you are usually in charge of hiring, as well as evaluating job performances of laboratory employees. In some smaller labs, you may also need to oversee the accounting and other financial affairs of the laboratory, in addition to devising and managing an operating budget.

Additional duties include approving orders for supplies, equipment and other items necessary to conduct tests and keep the lab running smoothly. You ensure that testing procedures and equipment are safe and update personnel on the latest advances or changes in testing, regulations and equipment.

Most clinical laboratory personnel work in hospitals, according to the BLS, although they may also find employment with private laboratories, clinics and doctor's offices.

What Skills or Training Do I Need?

Managers of laboratories are often experienced lab professionals, and according to O*Net Online, must have good judgment, make sound decisions and have strong analytical skills (www.onetonline.org). You also need to have strong interpersonal skills for managing and motivating others as well as knowledge of sound business and management practices. Working in a medical setting, you must acquire and understand business and medical finances, insurance reimbursement regulations and budgeting and growth strategies.

For clinical laboratory work, the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) recommends that you start in high school by taking classes in chemistry, algebra, and biology (www.ascls.site-ym.com).

Be sure your prospective school's program is approved by accrediting organizations, such as the National Accrediting Agency for Laboratory Science (NAACLS); this organization approves educational programs for clinical laboratory technicians. Although you may not be required to have a bachelor's degree to enter the field, you may need to earn this credential in order to advance. Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement, so be sure to let a prospective employer know if you plan to continue your education.

In the program, you will take courses such as microbiology, chemistry, statistics, anatomy and medical terminology. Additional coursework that is relevant to your specialty includes cytology or pathology.

Once you've completed a program, the next step is obtaining certification and licensure. Because licensing regulations vary from state to state, check with your state to determine what qualifications you'll need to meet. Some states may require a bachelor's degree for licensing, as do most certifying agencies.

For advancement to administrative positions, a master's degree as well as solid work experience is usually the rule. Becoming a director requires obtaining a doctorate due to federal law, according to the ASCLS.

What is the Outlook and Salary For This Job?

Clinical laboratory technology is one of the fastest-growing areas of healthcare. The BLS reports that the employment of medical and clinical lab technologists is projected to increase by 14% between 2014 and 2024. Education level makes a difference: the average annual earnings for medical laboratory technologists in May 2015 were $61,860, compared to $41,420 per year for medical laboratory technicians. In addition, as of January 2017, Salary.com reports that the median annual salary for laboratory managers was $95,774.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another job that involves laboratory analysis of biological and chemical specimens is a job as a forensic science technician. These professionals test and evaluate evidence for criminal investigations, presenting their findings in written reports and court testimony. They need a bachelor's degree in order to get a job. Alternatively, if you are seeking a supervisory position within the medical field, you might also want to think about becoming a health services manager, where you would be responsible for coordinating the operations of a medical facility. The minimum educational requirement for the job is usually a bachelor's degree.

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