Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician
Medical Laboratory Technicians: Education, Schools, and Career Overview
Medical laboratory technicians (commonly referred to as clinical laboratory technicians, medical laboratory technicians, or MLTs) typically prepare specimens and perform manual tests or tests using automated analyzers. These professionals may also be responsible for running routine lab tests used for diagnosis and treatment or prevention of disease. Medical technicians may traditionally work under the direct supervision of medical technologists.
This profession is not to be confused with medical technologists and medical laboratory assistant.
- Medical technologists may be required to complete a bachelor’s degree program to practice, along with passing a national certification exam. However, medical technologists and medical technicians may perform many similar duties in their practice.
- Medical laboratory assistants may not be required to have any specialized degree; some medical assistants begin working with a high school diploma or equivalent. There are some short, four-six-month certificate programs that one can pursue but no special formal training is required. Also, medical laboratory assistants may not be required to become nationally certified.
Nature of Work
Medical laboratory technicians typically perform routine medical laboratory tests for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. They may work under the supervision of a medical technologist. Duties of medical technicians typically include:
- Cleaning and setting up lab equipment.
- Conducting blood and urine chemical analyses through a microscope or automated analyzer: this is typically done to screen for disease or abnormalities.
- Developing reports of test data through the use of charts and graphs.
- Analyzing experiment results using electrical devices to ensure that specifications were adhered to.
- Examining cells for abnormalities.
- Scanning specimens for microorganisms.
- Performing blood counts and conducting blood tests to prepare them for transfusion.
- Discussing cell abnormalities with a pathologist.
How to Become a Medical Laboratory Technician
Associate degree in Medical Laboratory Technician
Medical technicians are typically required to complete a two-year associate degree program. Most programs can include a practicum or clinical component. Typically, a medical laboratory technician degree program includes courses in chemistry, biology, anatomy, microbiology, hematology, and coagulation, to name a few. Associate degree programs for medical laboratory technicians are available in community colleges, technical schools, as well as online.
Certification and Licensure
Medical laboratory technicians may be able to improve their opportunities for advancement by earning a medical lab technician certification. This may be preferred by some employers and may even be required for licensing in some states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition to passing a qualifying exam, graduation from an accredited program is often necessary to seek certification. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) both offer certifications.
Career Advancement Opportunities for Medical Laboratory Technician
The BLS reports that certification, education or experience could allow medical lab technicians to advance into niche areas of lab science, such as clinical chemistry, histotechnology and immunology.
Skills and Qualities
Important skills and qualities for a career in medical laboratory technology include:
- Strong accounting, word processing and spreadsheet software skills
- Effective communication and customer service skills
- Attention to detail
- Ability to multitask
Career Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, employment of medical laboratory technicians is expected to grow due to multiple factors, such as an increase in the ageing population, a greater need to diagnose various diseases through laboratory procedures, prenatal diagnosis to identify genetic problems or abnormalities, among others. In general, it is expected that medical technicians with accredited degrees and certifications may stand to benefit the most.
- Board of Certification, American Society for Clinical Pathology, https://www.ascp.org/content/board-of-certification, accessed February 2019
- Certification, American Association of Bioanalysts, accessed February 2019, https://www.aab.org/aab/Certification.asp,
- Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Employment and Wages, March 2018, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292010.htm
- Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm