Online Phlebotomy Certification & Training
Explore your options for completing online phlebotomy training, including diploma, certificate, and course programs. Also, learn about different phlebotomy organizations and how to achieve phlebotomy certification.
Overview of Online Phlebotomy Programs
Generally, online phlebotomy programs are non-degree programs. As such, they usually lead to either a diploma or a certificate rather than a bachelor's or associate degree. Phlebotomy programs are designed to give students practical knowledge and training about how to draw, collect, and label blood samples from patients for analysis.
Because the phlebotomy profession requires extensive hand-on training, online phlebotomy programs are somewhat rare. Typically, online programs consist of online classes and in-person labs. These programs are not able to be completed 100% online. Usually, you must be up to date on your immunizations, must pass a background check, and must have CPR certification to attend a phlebotomy program.
Phlebotomy diploma programs can require anywhere from 15 to 40 total credits and take about 1 year to complete. Along with phlebotomy-focused coursework, students may also be required to take classes that center on computer skills, composition, and psychology.
Phlebotomy certificate programs require around 9 total credits with some programs requiring only 5 credits and others requiring up to 14 credits. You can complete a certificate in about 1 year. These programs usually have prerequisite requirements that include the completion of college-level writing courses.
Phlebotomy course programs don't lead to a diploma or certificate but they do prepare students for phlebotomy careers. Generally, phlebotomy courses require about 100 hours of classes, which can be completed online or on-campus. Students must also complete about 120 hours of clinical lab experience. These course programs take about 6 months to complete.
What You Learn in a Phlebotomy Program
Phlebotomy programs have a singular focus on teaching students clinical skills and knowledge about how to collect blood samples. No matter the program, you are required to complete coursework and in-person clinical labs.
In a phlebotomy program, you will learn how to perform venipunctures and capillary punctures, which are two methods for collecting blood samples. You will also learn how about special collection procedures and how to properly label and document samples. Additionally, you study safety measures, procedures and infection control. Programs also focus on communication skills, how to interact with patients, and ethical professionalism.
Medical Terminology and Anatomy & Physiology
Most programs will cover the principles and practice of medical terminology, including the use of suffixes, prefixes, and word roots. Usually, you learn medical terminology that relates to all systems in the human body and how to pronounce medical terms. Some programs will also include a course that covers basic human anatomy and the function of different systems.
Clinical Lab Training
Phlebotomy programs require that you complete in-person clinical experiences that place you within a local lab, an affiliated institution, or an on-campus lab. This clinical training is designed to give you real-world professional experience and help you refine your phlebotomy skills. Depending on the program, you can expect to complete anywhere from 100 to 320 hours of clinical training where you will work directly with patients and complete blood draws.
Accreditation for Phlebotomy Programs
The two leading organizations that accredit phlebotomy programs are the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) and the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA). By attending an accredited program, you are assured that you are receiving an education that prepares you for a phlebotomist career.
To achieve accreditation from NAACLS, a program must meet standards in terms of graduation rates, student outcomes and educational and financial resources offered to students, faculty, and curriculum.
To earn accreditation from NPA, a program must include specific courses on select topics, must complete self-assessment, must have experienced faculty, and must have a clear educational objective and statement of goals.
The Phlebotomist Profession
Phlebotomists are medical professionals who specialize in taking blood samples from patients. Below, you can explore this profession in-depth, including job duties, recommended skills, and salary and job growth information.
A phlebotomist's main job duty is drawing blood from patients. As such, phlebotomists interact with patients, informing them about the process of taking blood and reassuring them if they are anxious. Phlebotomists are in charge of all blood drawing supplies, including blood vials, test tubes, and needles. They must clearly label patient blood samples, as to avoid confusion, and must record relevant patient information into computer database systems. As phlebotomists are in contact with blood, they must make sure their workspaces and materials are always clean to avoid cross-contamination and infections.
As a phlebotomist, you must have good interpersonal skills, as you will likely work with patients who are fearful or nervous about needles and the blood draw process. For the same reasons, being compassionate and caring are key skills for phlebotomists. Additionally, you must have good hand-eye coordination to draw blood and work with the required equipment. It's also important that you are good with details, as you must track blood samples and make sure they are always labeled correctly. Phlebotomists are often required to be on their feet for long periods of time.
Phlebotomists can work in a variety of settings, including in hospitals, private physician offices, medical labs, and outpatient facilities. Those who work for blood donation organizations may be required to travel off-site to different locations in the community where they set up and work in mobile blood donation buses or locations. Likewise, some phlebotomists may be required to travel to other kinds of off-site locations other than their primary work setting, such as a patient's home or a different care facility.
Salary and Job Growth
The salary of phlebotomists depends on their work environment. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all phlebotomists in 2018 was $34,480. Below you'll find detailed salary information for phlebotomists in different industries:
|Job Setting||Median Annual Wage (2018)|
|Hospitals (private, local, state)||$33,040|
|Outpatient medical centers||$39,420|
As blood analysis is a crucial part of the medical field and helping patients, phlebotomists are in high demand in all job settings. For 2018-2020, the number of phlebotomists jobs is expected to increase by 23%.
Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Generally, phlebotomists only need to complete a phlebotomist program at a technical school or community college and do not need a degree. A limited number of phlebotomists only have a high school diploma but receive extensive training on the job.
Phlebotomist Certification Exams and Requirements
If you are a phlebotomist in the state of Washington, California, Nevada, or Louisiana, then you are required by law to become certified. In other states, certification is optional. However, it's highly recommended you achieve certification, as most employers prefer job candidates that have certification.
The certification process varies by organization. Typically, you need to meet an eligibility requirement in terms of education or professional experience to sit for a certification exam. You then must pass the exam to earn your certification credential.
Below, you can explore the different phlebotomist certification options, including eligibility requirements and exam information.
National Certified Phlebotomy Technician (NCPT)
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers certification in the form of the National Certified Phlebotomy Technician (NCPT) credential. There are 4 pathways for becoming eligible to take the NCPT exam:
- Current Student - You must be a current high school student or high school graduate who holds a phlebotomy technician certificate or diploma earned in the last 2 years, and you must submit the Phlebotomy Technician Certification Critical Skill Competency form.
- Graduate - You must have graduated from a phlebotomy technician program in the last 5 years and must submit the Phlebotomy Technician Certification Critical Skill Competency form.
- Professional - You must be a high school graduate with at least 1 year of professional phlebotomy technician experience with this experience taking place in the last 5 years. You must also submit and the Phlebotomy Technician Certification Qualification by Experience form.
- Military Veteran - You must be a high school graduate who has completed United States Armed Forces medical services training within the last 5 years. You must also submit the Phlebotomy Technician Certification Critical Skill Competency form.
If you meet the above qualifications, then you can take the NCPT Exam, which does require a fee (the fee varies by pathway). This exam is made up of 125 scored questions and takes 3 hours to complete. Some of the topics that are covered include:
- Laws and regulations regarding lab testing
- Patient and sample collection documentation
- Patient interaction
- Use of safety products
- Selection of equipment
- Blood collection
- Reacting to medical emergencies
Certified Phlebotomist Technologist
This certification is offered by the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA). To be eligible to take the NPA National Boards exam, you must have attended and graduated from an Allied Health Program that includes the following elements:
- 16 continuing education units on venipuncture techniques
- Or a course that includes 160 contact hours of lectures about venipuncture techniques
- 200 hours of practical experience
If you are already in the field, you can qualify for the exam by holding a current job as a phlebotomist and having at least 1 year of professional experience.
Phlebotomy Technician Certification (CPT)
The Phlebotomy Technician Certification (CPT) is offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The CPT Certification Exam consists of 100 questions plus 20 pretest questions and takes 2 hours to complete. This exam tests you on core phlebotomy concepts, such as:
- Ethical standards
- Patient communication skills
- Blood types and components
- The cardiovascular system
- Lab testing
- Medical terminology
To be eligible for the NHA CPT exam, you must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and complete one of the following:
- A training program, apprenticeship program, U.S. military medical training, or specific coursework within the past 5 years
- 1 year of professional, supervised work experience in the past 3 years
You must also complete 30 venipunctures and 10 capillary sticks on real people.
Phlebotomy Technician, PBT
Offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) is the Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) certification. To earn this credential, you must pass an exam, which consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and takes about 90 minutes to complete.
There are several eligibility pathways that will allow you to take this exam, including:
- Holding a high school diploma or its equivalent and completing a NAACLS approved phlebotomy program in the last 5 years
- Holding a high school diploma or its equivalent and completing a phlebotomy program that includes 40 hours of classes and 100 hours of clinical training in the last 5 years
- Holding a high school diploma or its equivalent and completing 1 year of professional experience as a phlebotomy technician in the last 5 years
- Holding a high school diploma or its equivalent and completing an RN, LPN or other allied health occupational education that includes phlebotomy training and 100 hours of donor blood collections in the last 5 years
- Holding a valid MT/MLS (ASCP) or MLT (ASCP) certification
- Holding a valid DPT (ASCP) certification and completing 100 hours of donor blood collections in the last 5 years
- Holding a high school diploma or its equivalent and completing a California Department of Public Health approved phlebotomy program in the last 5 years
Phlebotomist Agencies and Organizations
There are several agencies and organizations that offer certification credentials and exams for phlebotomists. These organizations also offer continuing education, resources, and accreditation to phlebotomist programs.
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
NCCT is an organization that administers a variety of medical-focused certifications for medical assistants, ECG technicians, insurance and coding specialists, patient care technicians and other professionals. NCCT also offers a certification for phlebotomy technicians. NCCT helps those with certifications achieve re-certification by offering continuing education courses.
The National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
NPA is a leading organization that focuses solely on the phlebotomist profession. The NPA offers certification, continuing education, and workshops for phlebotomists. They also accredit phlebotomist educational schools and programs. The NPA offers paid memberships that allow you to access exclusive networking opportunities and resources.
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
NHA offers certification for pharmacy technicians, EKG technicians, billing and coding specialists, and phlebotomy technicians among others. This organization also works with educational programs and aids them in adding certifications to their programs. NHA offers continuing education and career resources as well.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
ASCP represents and advocates for laboratory professionals and pathologists. This organization offers a range of certifications for lab technicians, histotechnicians, hematology technologists, and phlebotomy technicians, among others. ASCP also has paid membership opportunities for professionals and students. As a member, you get access to continuing education resources, newsletters, discounts on conferences and other products, and subscriptions to journals.