Cytologist: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for cytologists. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Cytologist?

Cytologists conduct tests on cell specimens in labs to detect cancers and other abnormalities. They analyze cell slides through a microscope to detect such occurrences. They examine a patient's history and log any changes. Cytotechnologists commonly work with other professionals to obtain the best possible diagnosis.

The chart below outlines career facts for cytologists and medical laboratory technologists.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Cytology, medical laboratory technology
Key Responsibilities Examining samples, reporting results to physicians, maintaining lab equipment
Certification Voluntary certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for medical and clinical laboratory technologists
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $64,339

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Are My Duties As a Cytologist?

Cytology is the study of cells, and as a cytologist (more commonly known as a cytotechnologist), you'd identify pathologies in cells. You review microscopic specimens, such as Pap (Papanicolaou) smears, to determine whether they're normal or abnormal by considering the patient's history and analyzing cellular patterns. You also might analyze specimens from other areas of the body, such as the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, thyroid and breasts. Together with pathologists, you'll help to detect precancerous lesions and disease in order to provide timely treatment.

According to the American Society for Cytotechnology (ASC), the field has progressed in recent years due to molecular diagnostics and automation (www.asct.com). For example, molecular biology techniques are being used to diagnose cervical cancer. Automation, or the use of computer-assisted screening, has allowed increased identification of abnormal cases.

How Do I Prepare for a Career?

The ASC maintains that you must attend an accredited program in the field in order to become a cytotechnologist. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in cytology are generally associated with teaching hospitals or universities. O*NET Online reported that 38% of cytotechnologists had bachelor's degrees and 62% had post-baccalaureate certificates in 2016 (www.onetonline.org).

Once you have the required education and experience, you can take an exam administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) to become a certified cytotechnologist (www.ascp.org). Certification is voluntary, and you must take continuing education courses in order to maintain your ASCP credentials.

What Salary Could I Earn?

According to PayScale.com, the median salary for cytotechnologists was $64,339, as of October 2016. Even though automation has impacted cytotechnology processes, medical and clinical laboratory technologists were expected to experience a faster-than-average rate of job growth at 14% between the years of 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those interested in cytology may consider a broader network of jobs such as biological technicians or chemist/materials scientists. These occupations also demand bachelor's degrees at minimum. Biological technicians work in labs where they assist scientists with experiments and tests. Chemists and materials scientists research ways to improve and maintain various products by studying them at the chemical 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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