Medical Laboratory Scientist: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a medical 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 Medical Laboratory Scientist?

Medical laboratory scientists, also known as medical laboratory technologists, conduct laboratory tests with high-tech equipment and analyze the results with complex laboratory tools. Then, they write up their findings in reports that can help doctors detect diseases and medical conditions. They may also discuss results with doctors directly. In addition to this technical work, medical laboratory technologists may be involved in the supervision of lower-level lab workers, like medical laboratory technicians.

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

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; master's degree for advanced positions
Education Field of Study Bachelor's: Medical technology, clinical laboratory science, biology
Master's: clinical &/or medical laboratory science
Key Skills Perform scientific tests on biological substances using sophisticated lab equipment; use test results to help diagnose patient conditions; maintain lab and equipment
Licensure/Certification Required Some states require licensing; some states require certification for licensing
Job Growth (2018-2028) 11% for medical and clinical laboratory technologists*
Average Salary (2018) $53,880 for medical and clinical laboratory technologists*

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

What Job Duties Will I Have as a Medical Laboratory Scientist?

Your job would be to conduct biological, chemical and immunological tests with laboratory tools such as microscopes, spectrophotometers, photometers and chemistry analyzers. You could work in a small or large medical laboratory at a hospital, clinic or research facility.

The laboratory tests you conduct could detect diseases, gauge a patient's health and quantify chemical levels, such as blood glucose and cholesterol. You'll examine bodily fluids, tissue samples and cells, searching for bacteria, parasites, abnormalities and medication levels in a patient's bloodstream. Other duties may include maintaining lab equipment and tools, preparing specimens for analysis and managing a laboratory.

What Education Will I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most medical laboratory technologists hold bachelor's degrees in medical technology, clinical laboratory science or a life science; however, you may be able to gain a position if you possess a combination of education and training ( Bachelor's degree programs will teach you about biology, hematology, microscopy, chemistry, immunology, math, parasitology, microbiology, molecular diagnostics, statistics and lab staff management. You'll complete laboratory requirements at a campus lab and an internship or practicum at a medical facility, such as a hospital or clinic.

Because some states may require that you become licensed, registered or certified, you should look for a program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). To qualify for administrative and managerial positions, you might consider continuing on to a master's degree program in clinical laboratory science or medical laboratory science. These are generally 2-3 year programs that offer concentrations in areas such as clinical research and public health.

How Do I Get Licensed and Certified?

National associations that award certification for medical laboratory technologists include American Medical Technologists and the American Association of Bioanalysts. A bachelor's degree and completion of an NAACLS-accredited medical laboratory science program would qualify you for the Medical Laboratory Scientist credential, offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another laboratory-based option is a career as a forensic science technician. These professionals analyze chemical and biological specimens for criminal investigations, and they present their findings in reports and court testimonies. To get this job, you would need to complete a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, you could get an entry-level job in an academic research lab that specializes in biochemistry or a closely related field. Rather than conducting tests for medical purposes, you would be assisting with basic science research intended for publication in academic journals. A bachelor's or master's degree is necessary for this kind of work.

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