How Do I Become a Clinical Laboratory Scientist?

Research what it takes to become a clinical laboratory scientist. Learn about job duties, education requirements, certification and salary 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 Clinical Laboratory Scientist?

As a clinical laboratory scientist, also known as clinical laboratory technologists or medical technologists, you'll test cells, blood and body fluids to detect, diagnose and treat diseases. You might work in a healthcare facility such as a hospital or doing research at an academic institution or private company. Clinical laboratory scientists utilize advanced equipment, such as computerized tools, that can run multiple tests at a time. They must log and report their findings, and review them with physicians. In some cases, they train other medical laboratory technicians. The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know about entering this profession.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Medical technology, life sciences
Key Responsibilities Examine & test biological samples; analyze data & report results; operate specialized equipment; supervise lab technicians
Licensure/Certification License &/or certification required by some states & employers
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 14% for medical and clinical laboratory technologists*
Median Salary (2015) $60,520 for medical and clinical laboratory technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are My Duties as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist?

Clinical laboratory scientists work in the laboratories of healthcare and research facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, public health organizations and private companies. In this position, you're responsible for performing tests on mainly biological specimens. You'll analyze data from lab tests to detect, diagnose and facilitate medical treatments. You could also examine blood for transfusions.

Based on your findings, you'll calculate test results to come up with new methods for more accurate testing procedures. Filtering data to provide the most relevant information, you could perform the same tests multiple times using different formulas. After you test and examine the data, you typically send the results to a physician or other authority. You could operate high-tech laboratory equipment to perform your lab tests. With sufficient experience or education, you could become a supervisor or project lead for clinical lab technicians.

What Education Should I Seek?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recommends that you earn a bachelor's degree in medical technology or a life science, such as chemistry, biology or pathology, from a school accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (www.bls.gov). These degree programs teach you how to operate complex lab equipment and microscopes to analyze different samples to detect bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses.

You might also study anatomy, toxicology, parasitology, immunology and hematology. You could complete a clinical lab internship to gain hands-on, real world experience after completing required core courses like chemistry, microbiology and physiology. Internships are frequently offered through degree programs, though you can also find extracurricular opportunities directly with several companies.

What Certification Should I Pursue?

Your state or employer might require you to be licensed or certified as a clinical lab scientist. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers certification for clinical lab technologists in a number of areas (www.ascp.org). For example, you can become a certified cytotechnologist, histotechnologist or medical laboratory scientist. Eligibility for these exams requires at least a bachelor's degree and clinical experience. As of 2017, New York and California allow ASCP certification to meet the licensure requirements of the state.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related careers are biological technicians, chemists/materials scientists, and veterinary technologists/technicians. Biological technicians assist biological and medical scientists by setting up and maintaining equipment, preparing reports and performing experiments. Chemists and materials scientists analyze the levels and interactions of substances to test and improve the quality of manufactured products. Veterinary technologists and technicians work with veterinarians to help diagnose and treat animals. Biological technicians and chemists/materials scientists need a bachelor's degree to enter the field, while veterinary technologists/technicians will need an associate's degree.

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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