Histology Technologist: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for histology technologists. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, certification and salary 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 Histology Technologist?

Histology technologists are medical laboratory scientists who specialize in work in a medical laboratory setting and biological tissue sample preparation. They cut and stain these samples, which can then be analyzed by pathologists and physicians for diagnostic or general research purposes. In addition, some histology technologists are responsible for the oversight of lower-level lab members, such as histotechnicians.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this profession.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree & post-baccalaureate certificate
Education Field of Study Degree: biology or related science; certificate: histotechnology
Key Skills Operate sophisticated lab equipment, prepare histology slides & perform tests, discuss results with physician/pathologist
Certification Optional certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 14% (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists)*
Average Salary (2015) $61,860 (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Histology Technologist?

As a histology technologist or histotechnologist, you would work in a medical laboratory, preparing slides of tissue for analysis. Your work in the histology laboratory is part of the pathology process and can provide information for physicians and their teams to make the correct diagnoses and develop methods of treatment. You should have excellent attention to detail and manual dexterity because lab specimens are extremely delicate. You may be required to perform various lab techniques, such as tissue staining, in order to gather different types of information.

What Education Do I Need?

You'll need some formal training to work as a histology technologist. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) accredits degree programs for numerous types of medical laboratory workers, including histology technicians and technologists (www.naacls.org). You'll need more training to become a histotechnologist than you would to become a histotechnician, because your laboratory duties may be more complex. You could earn an associate's degree and gain relevant work experience as a histotechnician, or you could earn a bachelor's degree in biology or a related science followed by a post-baccalaureate histotechnology certificate.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

Though you don't need to be certified to work in a histology laboratory, the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers an exam that leads to Histotechnician (HT) or Histotechnologist (HTL) certification (www.ascp.org). In order to be eligible to take the HTL exam, you'll either need to earn a bachelor's degree and complete an NAACLS-accredited histotechnology program or complete one year of full-time experience in a clinical laboratory. You'll also need experience in the areas of fixation, microtomy, processing and staining.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in May 2015, medical and clinical laboratory technologists, including histology technologists, earned an average salary of $61,860 (www.bls.gov). Industries with the highest levels of employment included hospitals and diagnostic labs, while the highest-paying states were California, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The BLS also stated that during the 2014-2024 decade, histology technologists (as part of the medical and clinical lab technologist group) could expect job growth of about 14%, which is faster than the average for all U.S. occupations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a medical laboratory technologist, you have the option of specializing in a variety of different areas, not just histology. For instance, if you are interested in studying proteins and nucleic acids, you could become a molecular biology technologist, and if you would rather run experiments on bacteria and other microorganisms, you can pursue a career as a microbiology technologist. Alternatively, you could simply work as a generalist, where you would need the skills to carry out a variety of lab procedures. To get any of these jobs, you probably need at least a bachelor's degree. Another related option is a job as a forensic science technician. Instead of running analyses for medical purposes, you would be conducting biological and chemical tests to aid in criminal investigations. A bachelor's degree is needed for this job as well.

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