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Become A Medical Laboratory Specialist

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Working As A Medical Laboratory Specialist

  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Make Decisions

  • Repetitive

  • Stressful

  • $48,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Medical Laboratory Specialist Do

Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Duties

Medical laboratory technologists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Analyze body fluids, such as blood, urine, and tissue samples, and record normal or abnormal findings
  • Study blood samples for use in transfusions by identifying the number of cells, the cell morphology or the blood group, blood type, and compatibility with other blood types
  • Operate sophisticated laboratory equipment, such as microscopes and cell counters
  • Use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests at the same time
  • Log data from medical tests and enter results into a patient’s medical record
  • Discuss results and findings of laboratory tests and procedures with physicians
  • Supervise or train medical laboratory technicians

Both technicians and technologists perform tests and procedures that physicians and surgeons or other healthcare personnel order. However, technologists perform more complex tests and laboratory procedures than technicians do. For example, technologists may prepare specimens and perform detailed manual tests, whereas technicians perform routine tests that may be more automated. Medical laboratory technicians usually work under the general supervision of medical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers.

Technologists in small laboratories perform many types of tests; in large laboratories, they sometimes specialize. The following are examples of types of specialized medical laboratory technologists:

Blood bank technologists, or immunohematology technologists, collect blood, classify it by type, and prepare blood and its components for transfusions. 

Clinical chemistry technologists prepare specimens and analyze the chemical and hormonal contents of body fluids. 

Cytotechnologists prepare slides of body cells and examine these cells with a microscope for abnormalities that may signal the beginning of a cancerous growth. 

Immunology technologists examine elements of the human immune system and its response to foreign bodies. 

Microbiology technologists examine and identify bacteria and other microorganisms. 

Molecular biology technologists perform complex protein and nucleic acid tests on cell samples.

Like technologists, medical laboratory technicians may work in several areas of the laboratory or specialize in one particular area. For example, histotechnicians cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists, who are doctors who study the cause and development of diseases at a microscopic level.

Technologists and technicians often specialize after they have worked in a particular area for a long time or have received advanced education or training in that area.

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How To Become A Medical Laboratory Specialist

Medical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Technicians usually need an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.

Education

An entry-level job for technologists usually requires a bachelor's degree in medical technology or life sciences.

A bachelor’s degree program in medical laboratory technology, also known as a medical laboratory scientist degree, includes courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, and statistics. Coursework emphasizes laboratory skills, including safety procedures and lab management.

The courses may be offered through a university or hospital-based program that students attend during their senior year of college. College graduates who major in other sciences and meet a program’s prerequisites, such as having completed required courses in biology and chemistry or maintaining a certain GPA, also may apply to a medical laboratory science program.

Medical laboratory technicians often complete an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory science. A limited number of 1-year certificate programs are available from hospitals, and admission requirements vary. The Armed Forces and vocational or technical schools also may offer certificate programs for medical laboratory technicians. Technician coursework addresses the theoretical and practical aspects of each of the major laboratory disciplines.

High school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the medical laboratory sciences should take classes in chemistry, biology, and math.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed. Requirements vary by state and specialty. For specific requirements, contact state departments of health, state boards of occupational licensing, or visit The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.

Certification of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is required for licensure in some states. Although certification is not required to enter the occupation in all cases, employers typically prefer to hire certified technologists and technicians.

Medical laboratory technologists and technicians can obtain a general certification as a medical laboratory technologist or technician, respectively, or a certification in a specialty, such as cytotechnology or medical biology. Most credentialing institutions require that technologists complete an accredited education program in order to qualify to sit for an exam. For more credentialing information, visit the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

Important Qualities

Ability to use technology. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians must understand how to operate complex machinery.

Detail oriented. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians must follow exact instructions in order to perform tests or procedures correctly.

Dexterity. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians need to be skilled with their hands. They work closely with needles and precise laboratory instruments and must handle these tools effectively.

Physical stamina. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians may work on their feet for long periods while collecting samples. They may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples for testing.

Advancement

After additional education, work experience, or certification, technologists and technicians may specialize in one of many areas of laboratory science, such as immunology, histotechnology, or clinical chemistry. Some medical laboratory technicians advance to technologist positions after gaining experience and additional education.

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Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Medical Laboratory Specialist
Supervisor 4.4%
Cashier 4.4%
Internship 3.7%
Waitress 2.9%
Volunteer 2.2%
Top Careers After Medical Laboratory Specialist
Internship 3.5%
Volunteer 2.2%
Supervisor 2.2%

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Top Skills for A Medical Laboratory Specialist

  1. Clinical Chemistry
  2. Hematology
  3. Microbiology
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed general routine clinical laboratory testing in the areas of clinical chemistry, hematology, coagulation, urinalysis and blood bank.
  • Prepared and performed media culture for analysis & testing for microbiology with proper inoculation and testing methods.
  • Collect blood samples and urinalysis while ensuring proper patient identification and labeling.
  • Performed Phlebotomy procedures for collection of donor blood samples for laboratory testing.
  • Processed specimens in the areas of chemistry, toxicology, hematology, urinalysis, coagulation, serology, and microbiology.

Medical Laboratory Specialist Demographics

Gender

Male

51.4%

Female

41.9%

Unknown

6.8%
Ethnicity

White

59.8%

Hispanic or Latino

16.3%

Black or African American

13.9%

Asian

6.2%

Unknown

3.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

67.9%

French

10.7%

Portuguese

3.6%

Carrier

3.6%

Korean

3.6%

Italian

3.6%

Arabic

3.6%

Hausa

3.6%
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Medical Laboratory Specialist Education

Schools

George Washington University

49.1%

Thomas Edison State University

8.6%

University of Phoenix

4.9%

Community College of the Air Force

3.7%

Kaplan University

3.7%

Strayer University

3.1%

University of Texas at San Antonio

3.1%

University of Maryland - University College

2.5%

Midwestern State University

2.5%

Troy University

1.8%

University of South Florida

1.8%

American University

1.8%

Duke University

1.8%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

1.8%

US Army Medical Department Center and School

1.8%

University of the Incarnate Word

1.8%

The Academy

1.8%

Middle Tennessee State University

1.8%

University of Texas at Arlington

1.2%

Arizona State University

1.2%
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Majors

Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science

29.4%

Health Sciences And Services

13.7%

Business

11.3%

Biology

7.5%

Medical Technician

5.1%

Health Care Administration

3.8%

Criminal Justice

3.4%

Nursing

3.1%

Microbiology

2.7%

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

2.4%

General Studies

2.4%

Management

2.4%

Chemistry

2.4%

Accounting

2.0%

Science, Technology, And Society

1.7%

Medical Clinical Sciences

1.4%

Physician Assistant

1.4%

Liberal Arts

1.4%

Project Management

1.4%

Education

1.4%
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Degrees

Bachelors

29.0%

Associate

21.3%

Other

19.1%

Masters

18.1%

Certificate

7.9%

Diploma

2.2%

Doctorate

1.7%

License

0.5%
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