Cytology Technician Programs

Browse options and curricula for certificate and associate's degree programs in histology and medical laboratory science. Such programs train cytology technicians to assess samples such as biopsied tissues for signs of abnormalities that can indicate cancer or other pathologies. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kinds of Programs Are Available for Cytology Technicians?

Cytology technician programs are typically not available; however, to become a cytology technician you'll want to consider enrolling in a certificate or associate's degree program for histotechnology or medical laboratory science. Certificate programs can span from 8-12 months, while associate's degree programs generally take two years to complete.

You might need to take prerequisite courses in math, biology and chemistry before beginning a certificate or associate's degree program. During laboratories and practicums, you'll gain hands-on experience in freezing, cutting, staining and examining tissues on slides. Common topics explored in these programs include:

  • Medical terminologies
  • Staining techniques
  • Chemistry
  • Human biology and anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Clinical laboratory techniques
  • Diagnostic sciences

Job DutiesTake cell samples, examine cells for abnormalities
Common CoursesBiology, chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, clinical laboratory techniques
Online OptionsCertificate or associate's degree
Career OptionsLaboratory technician, cytology technician, histotechnician
Mean Salary (2018)* $53,880 (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 13% (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Online Options?

You can enroll in an online histotechnology certificate program, as well as an online clinical or medical laboratory science associate's degree or certificate program. Programs are usually aimed at those who are already working in a laboratory setting and can have an employer mentor them throughout the laboratory assignments.

Course readings and lecture notes are available through an online course management system. You can usually complete exams and smaller assignments from your home. However, you must conduct lab assignments at your place of employment and mail in the results. If you are unable to complete labs at work, you must conduct your labs on campus.

What Does a Cytology Technician Do?

A cytology technician is a type of laboratory technician who takes human and animal cell samples, as well as aids a cytotechnologist in examining them for abnormalities that could lead to illness or cancer. Technicians usually work in a medical or laboratory environment. If you want to be a technician, you often must have good communication skills because you'll usually be dealing with patients on a daily basis.

How Do I Get a Job?

With your certificate or associate's degree in histotechnology or laboratory science, you can work as a laboratory technician at a medical facility, a hospital, a laboratory or even a veterinary clinic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical and clinical laboratory technicians earned a mean yearly salary of $53,880 as of May 2018 ( You might want to consider receiving certification as a medical laboratory technician from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Certification usually involves graduating from an accredited laboratory science associate's degree program and holding clinical lab experience (

You can also take a more specialized position as a cytology technician or histotechnician. If you choose to enter the histology field, you might want to become a certified histotechnician with the ASCP. To earn your certification, the ASCP reported that you typically must have graduated from an accredited histotechnician program within the last five years and hold laboratory experience in a number of histology-related processes. According to, half of histology technicians earned an annual salary of $34,000-$52,000 as of July 2019.

Additionally, if you wish to eventually advance in your line of work, you can earn your bachelor's degree in cytotechnology and become a cytotechnologist. According to, the middle half of cytotechnologists with 1-4 years of work experience earned $28.00 per hour as of July 2019.

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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