Medical Lab Technician: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Medical lab technicians conduct tests on medical specimens and may specialize in several different areas. Learn about the job options in this field, along with the education requirements, credentialing and job outlook. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Medical Lab Technician?

A medical lab technician is a specialist who conducts tests on fluid and tissue samples collected from patients. The purpose of a test might be to identify harmful microorganisms, abnormal cells or unusual chemical reactions. The results also determine blood counts or confirm that blood is safe for transfusion. Technicians often specialize in areas such as immunology, cytotechnology and phlebotomy.

Your duties as a medical lab technician, which is a different occupation from a medical lab technologist, include preparing reagents and solutions for samples, examining cells, analyzing data and creating charts, graphs and descriptive reports. You'll explain your findings and confer with laboratory supervisors and physicians. You may also have to clean, set up and adjust lab equipment. Below is important information that contains details about becoming medical lab technicians.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Medical technician; clinical laboratory science
Key Duties Collect samples, run tests
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18%*
Median Salary (2015) $38,970*

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

What Are My Job Prospects?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you are most likely to find a medical lab technician job at a hospital ( More than half of the 328,200 people employed as clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in May 2014 worked in hospitals, the BLS stated. Employment was also high in in medical and diagnostic labs, physicians' offices, outpatient clinics and universities.

Employment of medical lab technicians is projected to increase 18% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported job growth will be driven by a greater demand for medical tests as falling costs and technological advances improve the scope, quality and quantity of information from tests.

What Education Do I Need?

You'll need an associate's degree or at least a certificate in a medical technician program. You'll find these programs at technical or vocational schools or at community colleges. Some hospitals may offer certificate programs, according to the BLS.

If you want to improve your advancement and career opportunities, you may pursue a bachelor's degree in medical technology. This lets you to work as a medical laboratory technologist, which allows you to perform more advanced lab work and have greater responsibility.

Medical technology programs are a mix of classroom instruction, lab courses and a clinical internship. Topics covered include hematology, microbiology, fluid analysis and lab methods. Increased adoption of computer technology and automation has shifted the work of technicians away from more manual tasks toward more analytical work, the BLS noted.

Depending on the state where you are employed, you may need a license or be registered to work as a medical lab technician. While certification is voluntary, many employers prefer if you are certified. Three industry organizations offer certification: the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Medical Technologists and the American Association of Bioanalysts. Their certification exams vary in content and length but typically test your knowledge of clinical chemistry, immunology, hematology and microbiology.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other types of technicians similarly help scientists, such as biological or chemical technicians, with research, experimentation and testing. Biological technicians are required to have a bachelor's degree while chemical technicians need an associate's. Veterinary technicians, who also need an associate's degree, assist licensed veterinarians with diagnosing sickness and injuries in a wide range of animals. In all of these careers, the non-content area skills are largely transferable.

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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