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ASCP Certification Requirements, Renewal & Eligibility

Learn about the requirements that must be met in order to receive certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Find out what is needed to be eligible and what steps must be undertaken to renew and maintain that certification.

What Is an ASCP Certification and How Can I Earn It?

The American Society for Clinical Pathology, or ASCP, offers a credentialing program designed to prove the holder of a certification is qualified to work in a medical laboratory. There are a number of certifications offered by the ASCP that cover jobs ranging from technicians and technologists to specialists, each of which has its own unique requirements that must be met. To receive certification, applicants must send in verification of their education levels and/or their relevant work experience, then take and pass a computer-based examination. Some ASCP certifications require having previously passed other ASCP certification exams, forming a rough pathway for advancement. ASCP certifications must be renewed every three years and require reinstatement exams should the certification be allowed to lapse.

Purpose of ASCP Certification Affirms that the holder is competent and trained for specific healthcare roles
Common Requirements High school diploma or college degree, relevant work experience, and/or completion of accredited coursework (varies by credential)
Available ASCP Certifications Phlebotomy Technician, Medical Laboratory Technician, Cytotechnologist, Medical Laboratory Scientist and Specialist in Cytotechnology, among others
Length of Certification Process Applications processed within 45 business days; exam scores are reported within four business days
Recommended Preparation Practice exams and study packs from the ASCP
Certification Renewal Must meet continuing education goals every three years

What Sort of Requirements Are There to Apply for ASCP Certification?

All of the certifications have their own requirements that must be met, although there are multiple ways to meet them. There are some commonalities across different certifications, however. Some, such as the Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) certification, require a high school diploma and some post-secondary training, such as an NAACLS-approved training program, or work experience. Other certifications, like the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) credential, require an associate's degree. Still others, like the Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) credential, require a bachelor's degree or work experience. Completion of relevant courses approved by accrediting bodies like the NAACLS or ABHES are a common requirement as well, but not universal. Relevant work experience is often needed for higher level certifications, ranging from a year to as much as three years.

What Kinds of Jobs Can ASCP Certification Be Used For?

ASCP certifications can be applied to a wide number of jobs within the healthcare field at all educational levels. Phlebotomy technicians, for example, take blood samples and process them, providing information on patients to doctors and nurses. Technologist jobs, such as cytotechnologists, perform more complex tasks, such as examining cell and tissue samples under a microscope for signs of cancer. Specialist certifications, which typically require other certifications be achieved first, prove that one is experienced and capable of handling more complex tasks within the field, as is the case with the Specialist in Cytotechnology (SCT).

How Long Does the ASCP Certification Process Take?

Applications for ASCP certification must be completed within 30 days of starting them, and all requested documentation to prove that you meet the requirements must be submitted during that time. Completed applications are processed within 45 business days. After an application has been accepted, a test date at a valid testing center must be scheduled within three months. The exams themselves take either two or two and a half hours and have between 80 and 100 questions. After the exam, scores are sent to you within four business days. The whole process could be completed in under a month if an applicant is expeditious in providing what is required of them and fortunate with testing dates.

What Can I Do to Increase My Odds of Passing ASCP Exams?

The ASCP's Board of Certification offers several different study options designed to assist with passing each exam. A list of suggested reading is provided for each exam, although it is not exhaustive. Specially tailored study packs can be purchased, covering information likely to show up on the certification exam. Practice exams are also available, offering examinees an idea of what the actual test might entail. While prerequisite courses can be applied for up to five years after completion, it may be best to take certification exams soon after completing them, while the information learned is still fresh in your mind.

How Does ASCP Certification Renewal Work?

All ASCP certifications last three years, at present. In order to renew a certification, referred to as credential maintenance, the holder must complete certain continuing education requirements before that three-year period is up. These requirements are considered on a point system, with different certifications requiring a specific number of points, ranging from 5 to 45, although most require 36. These points can be earned by completing courses in topics like lab safety, taking university classes, authoring a book or formal doctoral/master's thesis, or teaching in clinics, among other activities. If one fails to obtain the necessary amount of points before their certification expires, they will have to take a reinstatement exam.