What's the Job Description of a Clinical Lab Technician?

Research what it takes to become a clinical lab technician. Learn about job duties, education requirements, salary and employment outlook 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 Clinical Lab Technician?

Clinical lab technicians, also known as medical lab technicians, work in a laboratory to prepare, examine and analyze tissue, blood and other bodily fluid samples. They work under the supervision of medical laboratory technologists to do this work, and they write up their findings in reports for physicians, who can use the information to diagnose patients and develop treatment strategies. They can find work in doctor's offices, hospitals and specialized medical labs.

Degree Required Associate's degree or certificate
Education Field of Study Clinical/medical laboratory technician
Key Skills Conduct tests & analysis of biological samples to help in patient diagnosis
Licensure Required Licensing required in some states; certification required by some employers & for licensing in some states
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 18%*
Average Salary (2015) $41,420*

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

What Would My Duties Be As a Clinical Lab Technician?

As a clinical lab technician, you would look for bacteria and other microorganisms that could be causing illnesses, or test blood for type and levels of certain compounds. You would use sophisticated lab equipment such as microscopes and, increasingly, computer-automated analysis machines. You would work under the supervision of clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers.

Can I Specialize in the Field?

Some technicians perform multiple kinds of tests while others specialize in certain areas. You could work as a histology lab tech, preparing and analyzing slides of tissues and cells, or as a phlebotomy tech, dealing with blood samples. Other specialties include cytotechnology, the study and analysis of cells for cancerous growth; immunology, the study of the body's immune system and its functionality; and molecular biology, the study of proteins and nucleic acids in patient samples.

What Training Would I Need?

Most technicians have either an associate's degree or a certificate from a medical laboratory technician training program. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences accredits programs for clinical lab technicians and technologists. Such programs are designed to teach you about lab techniques both in the classroom and in supervised clinical settings (www.naacls.org). They often include courses in microbiology, hematology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and mathematics. Some states require you to be licensed in order to work as a lab tech so check with your state for specific rules governing your field.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that medical and clinical laboratory technicians made an average annual wage of $41,420 (www.bls.gov). About 42% of these workers were employed by hospitals and about 18% by medical and diagnostic labs. The BLS also noted that job opportunities for clinical lab techs should be excellent, citing expectations of 18% job growth during the 2014-2024 decade, which is much faster than the average for all U.S. occupations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another career possibility is a job as a diagnostic medical sonographer or cardiac technician. Similar to clinical lab technicians, they use specialized diagnostic tools to generate images and reports for doctors so that they can identify abnormalities and diseases in their patients. You could also think about becoming a nuclear medicine technologist, which would involve preparing radioactive drugs for patients to take, and then using radiation-based machines to create images that can be used for diagnostic purposes. In order to work in any of these jobs, you would likely need an associate's degree.

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