How to Become a Certified Medical Tech in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a medical technician and gain certification. Learn about the educational requirements, job outlook and certification process, as well as advanced education options for career enhancement, 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 Does a Certified Medical Tech Do?

Certified medical technicians process specimens and perform laboratory tests ordered by physicians and medical technologists. Many specialize in cytotechnology, hematology or microbiology. As a medical technician, you may perform tests on saliva, blood, and tissue samples and then be responsible for recording and sharing the results with the physician. Performing these tests often requires the ability to operating various medical machines and equipment. You may also at times be responsible for the training of other technicians. The following chart gives an overview of this field.

Degree Required Associate's
Education Field of Study Medical laboratory technology
Key Skills Collecting samples, performing tests, analyzing results, maintaining equipment
Certification Preferred by employers
Job Growth (2014-24) 18% (much faster than average)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $38,970*

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

What Is a Certified Medical Tech?

Certified medical technicians' work is essential in the diagnosis of medical conditions, the prevention of diseases and the treatment of patients.

Your primary duties as a certified medical tech would include examining samples of bodily fluids, cells and tissue. Supporting duties include maintaining cell counters, microscopes and other lab equipment. Some certified medical technicians, such as phlebotomists, also collect specimens from patients. To become a certified medical technician, you must earn an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science degree in medical laboratory technology and become certified through a professional organization.

Step 1: Earn Your High School Diploma

For starters, you'll need a high school diploma to enroll in an associate's degree program. Classes in English, biology, chemistry and mathematics are considered best for preparation for further studies in medical laboratory technology. Some schools may require such courses among the prerequisites.

Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree

Associate's degree programs in medical laboratory technology develop the skills you'll need to perform competently in a medical lab. Programs accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (www.naacls.org) ensure that you receive the right mix of academic and lab training. Academic courses cover such topics as clinical chemistry, bacteriology, hematology and microbiology. Lab courses show you how to collect specimen samples, perform tests on cells, blood and other bodily fluids, analyze the results and maintain lab equipment. Some programs have internship or practicum courses that provide real-world work experience.

Step 3: Find a Medical Tech Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a majority of medical lab techs worked in hospitals, with the remainder spread among physicians' offices, medical and diagnostic labs, educational institutions and ambulatory healthcare services (www.bls.gov). The number of jobs in this field is expected to increase 18% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than average.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Medical technicians who've earned certification through a professional organization, such as the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (www.ascp.org), may find more and better job opportunities. Certification also is available in some specialty areas. For example, the American Board of Internal Medicine (www.abim.org) offers certification in hematology.

Step 5: Continue Your Education

Pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology or clinical laboratory science from a 4-year institution can increase your earning potential and career options. This or a comparable bachelor's degree can also qualify you to work as clinical laboratory scientist or medical laboratory technologist. Many accept transfer credits from associate's degree programs in medical lab technology. Lab management, molecular diagnostics and advanced microbiology are among topics covered in medical technology courses.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

An associate's degree in medical laboratory technology generally will only qualify you to work as a technician or technologist. However there are other similar associate's degree programs that would take the same amount of time and prepare you to work in related fields. For example, you could pursue an associate's degree in applied science or chemical technology and become a chemical technician. If you have an interest in running specific types of medical equipment and administering specific treatment, you could pursue an associate's program to become a radiation therapist and provide patients with radiation therapy.

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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