Become a Certified Phlebotomy Technician in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for phlebotomy technicians. Get the facts about education and certification requirements, job duties and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Phlebotomy Technician Do?

When a patient needs their blood drawn for tests or a blood transfusion, they are sent to a phlebotomy technician. Phlebotomy technicians draw blood, then label and organize the blood samples so they can be tested in a laboratory. They also need to store patient information in a database, and they're responsible for organizing and maintaining the needles, blood vials, test tubes and other supplies that they use throughout the day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 38% of phlebotomy technicians worked in hospitals as of 2014, while 28% worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories.

Degree Required Postsecondary diploma or certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Phlebotomy
Key Skills Attention to detail; hand-eye coordination and dexterity; compassion
Certification Professional certification is preferred by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 25%*
Median Salary (2015) $31,630*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Phlebotomy Technician?

Phlebotomy technicians, or phlebotomists, draw blood from patients for testing. As a phlebotomy technician, you'll work in physician's offices, clinics, laboratories and blood banks. You'll gather the specimens using blood drawing techniques, such as venipuncture, and put the specimens into labeled vials. Each vial already contains chemicals that react with the blood for the different tests. You may also gather patient medical history and ease patients' worries about the blood drawing. Another task may be to keep inventory and order additional supplies.

Step 1: Earn Your High School Diploma

You must hold a high school diploma or the equivalent to qualify for a postsecondary certificate program in phlebotomy. Classes in anatomy, mathematics and computer science are recommended during your secondary education. Many high schools also offer shadow programs, in which you'd spend a day following a professional in his or her career setting; shadowing a phlebotomy technician could allow you to see what a typical work day is like.

Step 2: Earn a Certificate

Certificate programs in phlebotomy explore such topics as anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, medical ethics and phlebotomy techniques. These programs include clinical experiences, providing the hands-on training you'll need to strengthen your skills in puncturing veins for blood draws. This clinical experience also allows you to complete the recommended amount of venipunctures for certification, with some programs requiring up to 100 draws.

Step 3: Earn Your Certification

Many agencies certify phlebotomists. When choosing a certifying agency, look for one that's recognized nationally. The American Society for Clinical Pathology's Board of Certification offers a credential for phlebotomy technicians (www.ascp.org). The American Medical Technologists offers a nationally and internationally recognized phlebotomist certification (www.amt1.com). Also, the National Phlebotomy Association has certified phlebotomists through all 50 states (www.nationalphlebotomy.org). Additionally, some states require certification in order to obtain licensure.

Step 4: Continue Your Education

Consider advancing your education to become a medical or clinical laboratory technician. Many colleges offer 2-year associate degree programs that prepare you for this position. Courses teach you about laboratory technology, psychology, hematology, immunology, microscopy, pathogenic microbiology and urinalysis. These programs often include clinical experiences, working in a laboratory under a certified lab technician. You'll practice lab tests and learn your way around a real laboratory setting.

Step 5: Earn Certification as a Laboratory Technician

The minimum requirement to becoming a certified laboratory technician is an associate degree. Both the American Medical Technologists and the American Society for Clinical Pathology offer certification for medical laboratory technicians. Along with the completion of a college program, you'll also be expected to have clinical experience in a laboratory.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Medical assistants work under the supervision of physicians and perform basic tests on patients. They may take a patient's blood pressure, check a patient's temperature and document data for the physician before he or she sees the patient. Medical assistants typically need to complete a certificate or other postsecondary non-degree program.

Veterinary assistants and technicians work with veterinarians and provide care for animals that are receiving veterinary treatment. Technicians may also be involved in administering medications or collecting samples from animals for testing. Assistants are only required to have a high school diploma, while technicians need an associate's degree

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