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Medical Lab Assistant

By an allied health world contributing writer

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The behind-the-scenes work of a medical lab assistant (MLA) may involve preparing specimens for lab tests and analysis. This job may help to ensure that the correct test is being run on a specimen and allows medical technicians and medical technologists to have everything in place to perform the test.

What is the job of a medical lab assistant?

Medical lab assistants, commonly referred to as MLAs and clinical lab assistants, may be responsible mainly for specimen preparation mlaand work alongside medical technologists and medical technicians. MLAs handle the computer work involved in receiving and registering specimens. They ensure each specimen has the proper label and is in the correct tube for the test being run. Typically after the MLA has finished preparing the specimen for the test, the medical technician or medical technologist (MT) actually runs the test on the specimen. Medical lab assistants are able to perform basic tests such as urinalysis but blood tests must be run by medical technicians or medical technologists. Lab assistants also generally handle laboratory billing and coding.

What types of employment settings are medical lab assistants employed?

Medical lab assistants may be employed in hospitals, diagnostic and medical laboratories, clinics, and even large doctor’s offices. MLAs employed in doctors’ offices mainly run urine specimens and rapid tests like pregnancy or strep tests. By employing an MLA in their office, a doctor is able to receive test results quickly and treat the patient without having to send them to an outpatient hospital or lab. This expedites the process for doctors and is more convenient for patients.

What are other titles for this profession?

Medical lab assistants (MLAs) are also commonly referred to as clinical lab assistants, or lab assistants. Oftentimes phlebotomists serve a dual role of medical lab assistant too. Other times, when these two job functions are separate, those trained in phlebotomy move into a medical lab assistant role. Generally a medical lab assistant with formal training is able to perform the duties of a phlebotomist.


Medical technologists and medical technicians are completely different occupations within the lab setting. Medical lab assistants prepare specimens for these professionals to run the actual tests. Medical technicians are responsible for testing and analyzing specimens and must graduate with an associate’s degree and become certified in order to practice. Medical technologists are involved in running and analyzing more of the complex tests and must have a bachelor’s degree and certification to practice.

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