Cytogenetic Technologist: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a cytogenetic technologist. Learn about job responsibilities, education and certification requirements, and salary information 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 Cytogenetic Technologist?

A cytogenetic technologist is a medical laboratory scientist who specializes in studying the genetic materials within cells. These professionals prepare biological specimens on slides that can be analyzed under a microscope or using other specialized medical equipment. They write basic reports on their experiments, which can be used by academic researchers who are studying inherited diseases or conditions, or by doctors trying to diagnose genetic conditions. In addition to their experiments, some cytogenetic technologists are also responsible for supervising lower-level lab members like technicians.

The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Certification Preferred by many employers; required in some states
Job Duties Analyze patients' chromosomal structure, use karyotyping techniques, diagnose genetic diseases, use laboratory equipment
Job Growth (2018-2028) 11% (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists)*
Median Salary (2018) $69,190**

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

What Would I Do as a Cytogenetic Technologist?

Cytogenetics is the study of the cell and its genetic material, specifically the structure and arrangement of DNA molecules and the genes therein. As a cytogenetic technologist, you would use various laboratory techniques to analyze patients' chromosomal structures. Some congenital diseases such as Down syndrome are related to an abnormality in the number of chromosomes, while other diseases result from missing parts of certain chromosomes. You can check for these differences in chromosomes using karyotyping, florescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and other techniques. Some of your work may be in prenatal diagnosis while other work may involve locating the genetic influence for a potentially developing disease in an adult. You would work in a laboratory with sophisticated equipment, so you must have excellent attention to detail.

What Education Do I Need?

Most cytogenetic technologists have a bachelor's degree and some additional training. Before entering into a cytogenetic program, you need to take some undergraduate courses in the sciences, particularly biology, chemistry and genetics. Some bachelor's degree programs will, in the later years of study, offer courses related to cytogenetics and train you to work as a technologist, but post-baccalaureate certificate programs in cytogenetics are also available. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences accredits cytogenetic technologist programs at all levels (www.naacls.org). Whether you train in your final years of your bachelor's degree program or in a certificate program afterward, you will learn both the biological theory and clinical application of your field.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Though certification is not required, many employers prefer to hire cytogenetic technologists with credentials, according to the American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org). The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) awards certifications for clinical laboratory personnel, including the Technologist in Cytogenetics (CG) designation (www.ascp.org). When you meet the education and experience requirements and pass the examination, you will receive your CG certification.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic reported in May 2018 that medical and clinical technologists made a median yearly wage of $52,330 (www.bls.gov). In November 2019, Salary.com reported that cytogenetic technologists made median yearly salaries of $69,190.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a medical laboratory technologist, you could choose a specialization in a field other than cytogenetics. For example, if you are interested in conducting experiments on bacteria, you could work as a microbiology technologist, and if you are interested in hormones, you could work as a clinical chemistry technologist. You might also get a generalist job, where you would conduct a variety of different types of tests. Alternatively, if you want to work outside the medical field, you could become a forensic science technician, which involves running chemical and biological tests for criminal investigations. This job requires at least a bachelor's degree.

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