Medical Laboratory Assistant: Career and Salary Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as a medical laboratory assistant. Read on to learn more about career options along with education requirements and salary information. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Medical Laboratory Assistant Do?

Medical laboratory assistants, also known as medical laboratory technicians, obtain, process and manage samples from patients, such as cells and bodily fluids. Under the supervision of medical technologists and/or lab managers, they use specialized equipment to conduct diagnostic tests and write up reports that can be used by physicians and other medical professionals. They may also be responsible for recording results in patients' medical files.

The following chart provides an overview of what you should know about entering this field.

Degree Required Certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Medical laboratory assistant
Key Skills Process biological samples to aid physicians in diagnosis of patient conditions; maintain lab equipment
Licensure Required License & certification required in some states & by some employers; specifics vary
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 18%*
Average Salary (2015) $41,420*

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

What Is a Medical Laboratory Assistant?

These professionals prepare and examine patient specimens, such as cells and bodily fluids, in a laboratory setting. As a medical lab assistant, you may also be responsible for maintaining laboratory equipment. Some assistants specialize in a particular type of work, like blood analysis or slide preparation. However, highly specialized analysis, such as mitochondrial testing, is primarily conducted by medical lab technologists.

What Education Do I Need?

You'll need to complete a formal medical assistant training program through a vocational school or community college. These programs may lead to a professional certificate or associate's degree. You study fundamental laboratory methods, phlebotomy techniques, medical terminology and microbiology. Associate's degree programs may include additional coursework in clinical chemistry, hematology and immunology. Both certificate and associate's programs require completion of multiple clinical practicums.

Is Certification or Licensure Required?

In some states, you may need to obtain professional licensure to work in this field. Licensure requirements usually include completion of an approved training program and an exam. Some states only grant licenses to applicants who hold an associate's degree. For more information, contact your state's health licensing board.

Certification isn't required, but many employers prefer job candidates who hold a professional credential. A few organizations offer certification, including American Medical Technologists (AMT). In order to earn the Medical Laboratory Technician credential through AMT, you complete an accredited training program, acquire laboratory experience and pass an exam.

What's My Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical and medical lab technicians & assistants earned an average annual wage of $41,420 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). In addition, the number of employed medical lab assistants is expected to increase by 18% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the average for all U.S. occupations. This growth will result in part from the aging population's need for more medical tests, as well as the increase in the number of people who have health insurance.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in diagnostic testing, you could consider becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer. These professionals use specialized equipment, such as x-ray and ultrasound machines, to create images that can be used by doctors to diagnose diseases. A similar option is a career as a nuclear medicine technologist, where you would prepare radioactive drugs, administer them to patients and use radiation-based equipment to generate diagnostic images. For either one of these jobs, you would probably need to get 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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