How to Become a Clinical Lab Scientist in 5 Steps

Find out what types of jobs you could pursue as a clinical lab scientist. Read on to learn more about career options along with certification and salary information. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Clinical Lab Scientist?

Clinical lab scientists study and analyze bodily specimens, such as fluids and tissue, in order to assist physicians in the diagnostic process. They may look at things like blood types, blood compatibility or cell morphology. To do this, they use complex laboratory equipment, including automated machines that perform more than one task at once. Clinical lab scientists must keep detailed records of their work, as well as enter results into medical logs. They will discuss their findings with doctors. Depending on their place of work, they may be responsible for training and supervising other technicians in the lab to ensure compliance with procedures. Some clinical lab scientists may have the opportunity to specialize. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know to enter this field.

Degree Required Associate's &/or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Clinical lab science, medical technology
Key Skills Perform diagnostic medical tests; manage lab quality control
Licensure Required Some states require licensing; some states require certification for licensing; general & specialty certifications available
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 14%*
Average Salary (2015) $61,860*

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

What Does a Clinical Lab Scientist Do?

Clinical lab scientists conduct tests and examine DNA, blood cells, viruses and bacteria for physicians. You oversee the daily operations of medical laboratories by monitoring the quality of equipment, managing the lab staff and ensuring general efficiency. You may collect samples, put results into the computer and dye cells for better analysis.

Step 1: Consider an Associate Degree

As associate degree is not necessary; however, it is an appropriate start to the career. Many colleges offer associate degree programs in clinical laboratory science. The courses in this program train you in immunology, microbiology, human anatomy and diseases, as well as each individual test. An associate degree can be used as a 2+2 program for a bachelor's degree in clinical lab science, clinical lab technology or a specific lab technology.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree program in clinical lab science, medical technology or a related area of study is often all that is required to enter the field, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These programs often include courses in computers, business, management, hematology, cell biology, toxicology and molecular diagnostics. These programs generally include clinical practicum experiences.

Step 3: Get Licensed

Many states require clinical lab scientists to obtain state licenses before practicing. The BLS reported that applicants usually have to take a test, but the process varies by state (www.bls.gov). Those entering this field may want to consider checking with their state's medical board to determine if licensure is necessary and what prerequisites are being tested, such as educational requirements and clinical experience.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Certification gives you an edge when looking for new employment opportunities. Professional organizations, such as the American Medical Technologists, offer certification (www.americanmedtech.org). This usually requires a simple process of passing a written exam and the completion of a bachelor's degree. The American Society for Clinical Pathology offers a number of certifications for individual diagnostic testers, such as phlebotomist and cytotechnologists (www.ascp.org). They also offer a Medical Laboratory Scientist certification if you have a bachelor's degree and licensure.

Step 5: Earn a Graduate Degree

Consider earning a master's degree in clinical laboratory science or clinical laboratory management. These programs train you in the essential principles of managing a laboratory, such as human relations, management, organization and leadership. You are also trained in research, which enable you to complete research in new diseases, disorders and diagnostic tests. Either way, with a master's degree you should be able to advance your career.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A chemical technician is a related position that requires an associate's degree. Chemical technicians work in laboratories under chemists or chemical engineers to develop or test various chemicals and processes. Two other related careers are biological technicians and chemists and materials scientists. These positions require bachelor's degrees. Biological technicians work with biological or medical scientists to conduct lab experiments. Chemists and materials scientists improve and create products by studying their composition at the atomic level.

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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  • The George Washington University

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