How to Become a Medical Lab Technician in 5 Steps
Research what it takes to become a medical lab technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.
What is a Medical Lab Technician?
Medical lab technicians collect and evaluate bodily specimen samples to detect illness and provide information to guide treatment. They work in different settings sometimes choosing to specialize in a particular area. The choice to specialize in a particular area is often made after they have had years of experience or advanced education. They are usually supervised by medical lab technologists.
See the table below for more information about medical lab technician careers:
|Degree Required||Associate's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Medical Laboratory Science or related field|
|Key Responsibilities||Obtain patient specimens,|
Oversee validity and reliability checks,
|Licensure/Certification||Some states require licensure; optional certification available|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)||11% for medical and clinical laboratory technicians*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$52,330 for medical and clinical laboratory technicians*|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Will I Do as a Medical Lab Technician?
Medical lab technicians collect and evaluate specimen samples in order to detect illness and provide information regarding the best course of treatment. You may work directly with blood typing and analyze blood for transfusions. You may work specifically with animal or human diagnostic tests. You'll also be responsible for the operation and maintenance of lab equipment which will require good technology skills. You should be prepared to communicate with physicians and other lab technicians or technologists and be a concise with your records. You may work in a specialty area, such as immunology or microbiology, or as a general lab technician.
Step 1: Earn Your High School Diploma
You must earn your high school diploma or the equivalent to qualify for a certificate program or an associate degree program in medical laboratory technology. Valuable preparatory high school courses include biology, chemistry, health occupations, physics and mathematics. You can also consider shadowing a certified medical lab technician before pursuing a certificate or degree program.
Step 2: Pursue an Associate Degree
Associate degree programs in medical laboratory science provide instruction in both classrooms and laboratories. Coursework may include biology, chemistry, clinical laboratory practices, hematology, immunology, microbiology and psychology. Consider a program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (www.naacls.org).
Step 3: Complete Clinical Practice and Earn Licensure
Clinical experience may be earned during your degree program or afterwards in an internship. In either case, you're typically required to have clinical practice before seeking licensure and certification. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some states require medical technicians to become licensed (www.bls.gov). Check with your state for any licensing requirements.
Step 4: Earn Your Certification
Many employers seek medical lab technicians who've earned certification through a professional organization, such as the American Society of Clinical Pathology (www.ascp.org). They offer certification for medical lab technicians, which requires an associate's degree along with the completion of a NACCLS-accredited training program (or other approved course of study). Certification and renewal requirements vary by organization.
Step 5: Continue Your Education
According to the BLS, job opportunities for medical lab technologists were expected to increase by 11% between 2018-2028, a rate that is much faster than average and suggests that jobs should be readily available. To become a technologist, you'll need to continue your education. Consider a Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology or clinical laboratory science degree to work as a medical technologist or clinical laboratory scientist.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Some similar careers include biological technicians, chemical technicians and veterinary technicians. Biological technicians will need a bachelor's degree in biology or biology science and will work specifically with biological specimens, analyzing findings. Chemical technicians assist chemical engineers while working with special technologies to research chemical substances and their processes. An associate's degree is required for a chemical technician. Veterinary technicians are similar to medical technicians except they only work with animals often at animal hospitals. This career will require at least a two year degree.