How to Become a Medical Lab Technician

How to Become a Medical Lab Technician

What Does a  Medical Laboratory Technician or Technologist Do?

Medical laboratory technicians and technologists play an important role in the healthcare system. They collect samples from patients and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissues, and other medical samples. Medical laboratory technicians and technologists also operate the laboratory equipment used to perform medical tests, record data from these tests, and discuss the results with physicians.

Medical laboratory technicians collect samples from patients and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissues, and other medical samples.

Medical laboratory science professionals can specialize in several areas. A blood bank technologist, also known as an immunohematology technologist, collects and classifies blood samples and prepares materials for blood transfusions. Clinical chemistry technologists perform tests that analyze the chemical and hormonal levels in body fluids. Immunology technologists test the human immune system through their research, while microbiology technologists identify bacteria or other microorganisms in body fluids.

Medical laboratory technicians and technologists rely on several critical skills to perform their jobs. They must have a strong background in technology, particularly computerized laboratory equipment. They must also possess a detail-oriented outlook to effectively perform tests and collect results. Most medical laboratory technicians and technologists work in hospitals, medical or diagnostic laboratories, or doctors' offices.

What Is the Difference Between Medical Technologists and Medical Laboratory Technicians?

Both technicians and technologists perform medical tests using laboratory equipment; however, medical laboratory technologists hold greater responsibilities and conduct more complex tasks. For example, a technologist might perform more difficult tests that require manual procedures, while technicians conduct more automated tests.

Medical laboratory technicians generally need an associate degree or certificate, while medical laboratory technologists must typically hold a bachelor's degree. Some states require both medical laboratory technicians and technologists to hold a license.

Become a Medical Lab Technician

Certificate Programs

Medical laboratory certificate programs prepare graduates for medical laboratory technician jobs. Learners study topics like hematology, microbiology, and phlebotomy. They learn how to analyze tissue samples, blood samples, and other body fluids as well as how to identify abnormal results and enter medical tests into patient records.

Additionally, certificate programs train students to operate laboratory equipment, including microscopes and cell counters. The program also covers safety practices, such as OSHA standards and protective measures when operating laboratory equipment.

Completing a medical laboratory certificate program often takes 1-2 years. Graduates can pursue jobs as medical laboratory technicians, working in specialized roles like clinical laboratory technician or blood bank technician, or apply to a degree-granting program for further training.

Associate Degree Programs

Graduates with an associate degree qualify for entry-level medical laboratory technician positions. An associate degree helps candidates stand out in the job market compared to candidates with a medical laboratory technician certificate. The degree also provides foundational training for a bachelor's degree.

Learners study topics like microbiology, immunology, and hematology. They also receive training in blood work, medical lab equipment, and safety standards. Most programs blend classroom lectures with hands-on training in a laboratory setting to build professional skills. In addition to coursework in medical laboratory science, students complete general education classes to build critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

An associate degree generally takes two years of full-time study to complete. Graduates can pursue employment as medical laboratory technicians or apply to a bachelor's program to advance their careers.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science or medical technology prepares students for entry-level medical laboratory technologist roles. Learners take classes on topics like immunology, molecular biology, and biotechnology. Students also take coursework in biostatistics, research methods, and clinical laboratory practices.

Bachelor's students often take laboratory classes to gain hands-on experience with equipment and procedures. Most programs also incorporate clinical practicums or internships. In addition to major coursework, students take general education classes in chemistry, anatomy, English, and math.

A bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. Transfer students with prior college credit can earn their degree in less time. Graduates can work as clinical laboratory technologists or medical laboratory technologists in hospitals, clinical laboratories, medical research facilities, and other clinical settings.
Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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