Training Needed to Work in a Medical Laboratory
Find out about career options in medical laboratories. Get information about the training and degrees needed for these careers, along with certification options.
What Training Do I Need to Work in a Medical Laboratory?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that a bachelor's degree in an area of medical technology is usually the education requirement for a job as a laboratory technologist. Laboratory technicians typically hold associate's degrees or certificates from community colleges or vocational schools. Some hospitals offer on-the-job training to those with a high school diploma or its equivalent, but your certification options would be reduced if you chose this route.
Some states require licensure, registration or certification for technicians and technologists, and many employers desire certified applicants. Certification is offered by a number of certifying organizations, including the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and American Medical Technologists (AMT). The ASCP offers technician and technologist certifications in specific areas of medical laboratory technology, including blood banking, hematology, microbiology and chemistry.
|Training Requirements||Certificate or associate degree for technicians, bachelor's degree for technologists|
|Program Format||On campus or online; some hybrid programs|
|Program Length||One year for certificate, two years for associate, four years for bachelor's|
|Median Salary (2018)||$52,330 (for all clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)*|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||13% growth (for all clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Are My Education Options?
Certificate programs offer basic training in laboratory science, and they can generally be completed in one year or less. If you're interested in more in-depth training, you could enroll in an associate's degree program. Associate's degrees can be earned in two years or less. Your curriculum may include some general education classes, along with classes in medical laboratory technology. Expect to learn concepts such as anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, hematology and immunology. If you're interested in distance learning, you may have the option of enrolling in an online program, in which you could complete some coursework online and an internship in a medical laboratory.
What if I Already Completed Some College?
If you hold an associate's degree, you could complete a bachelor's degree program in two years. You would spend time in a classroom and a laboratory. Your courses might include forensic science, microbiology, mycology and body fluid analysis. Bachelor's degree programs in medical laboratory science may be completed fully or partially online; however, fully online programs may require students to be currently employed in a hospital or clinical lab in order to carry out hands-on learning tasks. If you don't have an associate's degree, it would take four years to complete a bachelor's program.