Cytotechnologist: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for cytotechnologists. Get the facts about job duties, employment outlook, salary and education requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Cytotechnologist?

Cytotechnologists study microscopic cell samples to identify diseases, bacteria and viruses. This study requires professionals to know how to use and maintain laboratory equipment, as well as analytical software. After analyzing data they typically prepare presentations or reports to either share research findings or provide physicians with confidential information. The chart below gives an overview of the prerequisites, duties and outlook for this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Medical technology or cytotechnology
Key Responsibilities Collecting, analyzing and cataloging cell samples, consulting with physicians, maintaining lab equipment
Certification American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Registry national certification is required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists *
Median Salary (2017) $72,268**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Salary.com

What Are My Job Tasks as a Cytotechnologist?

Cytotechnologists spend their workday studying human cell samples, so you can anticipate working in a laboratory setting. Under a microscope, you'll look at fluid and skin cells to discover any abnormalities, discoloration and misshapen cells. These characteristics could mean that there is a hormonal abnormality or the presence of cancer, viruses or bacteria. Your main responsibilities are conducting studies on samples from Papanicolaou (Pap) smear tests and fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies. You'll also study a variety of cell samples that have been extracted from the body invasively or non-invasively.

Some of your other tasks include logging and cataloging samples, consulting physicians about findings or gathering samples from patients. Also, you'll be responsible for labeling and verifying samples for patient files. Instruments, such as the centrifuge, are your responsibility, so you'll clean, maintain and repair them when necessary.

What Can I Expect from this Career?

Employment opportunities for cytotechnologists are expected to be strong in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic (www.mayo.edu). In general, medical and clinical laboratory technologists should expect to see 16% job growth between 2014 and 2024, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). In 2015, hospitals and laboratories were the two industries with the highest employment levels of lab technologists. Cytotechnologists earned a median annual salary of $72,268 as of 2017, according to Salary.com. The BLS reported that medical and clinical lab technologists had a median annual salary of $60,520 in 2015.

What Education Do I Need?

In order to become a cytotechnologist, you must take college courses in anatomy, microbiology, genetics, chemistry, immunology, cytology and disease. Entering this field requires a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology or Cytotechnology. You must also take the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Registry national certification exam for cytotechnologists (www.ascp.org). You may also be required to complete training or an internship before seeking employment. Often, you'll need to seek continuing education credits to update your skills and knowledge.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related to cytotechnologists, biological and chemical technicians operate laboratory equipment and conduct tests on samples to help scientist in their fields of study. In both of these fields professionals are responsible for the maintenance of lab equipment and spaces. They also spend much of their time monitoring experiments, making observations and writing up reports.

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