Clinical laboratory technologists generally require a bachelor's degree in
medical technology or in one of the life sciences; clinical laboratory
technicians usually need an associate degree or a certificate.
Education and training. The usual
requirement for an entry-level position as a clinical laboratory technologist is
a bachelor's degree with a major in medical technology or one of the life
sciences; however, it is possible to qualify for some jobs with a combination of
education and on-the-job and specialized training. Universities and hospitals
offer medical technology programs.
Bachelor's degree programs in medical technology include courses in
chemistry, biological sciences, microbiology, mathematics, and statistics, as
well as specialized courses devoted to knowledge and skills used in the clinical
laboratory. Many programs also offer or require courses in management, business,
and computer applications. The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act requires
technologists who perform highly complex tests to have at least an associate
Medical and clinical laboratory technicians generally have either an
associate degree from a community or junior college or a certificate from a
hospital, a vocational or technical school, or the Armed Forces. A few
technicians learn their skills on the job.
The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
fully accredits about 479 programs for medical and clinical laboratory
technologists, medical and clinical laboratory technicians, histotechnologists
and histotechnicians, cytogenetic technologists, and diagnostic molecular
scientists. NAACLS also approves about 60 programs in phlebotomy and clinical
assisting. Other nationally recognized agencies that accredit specific areas for
clinical laboratory workers include the Commission on Accreditation of Allied
Health Education Programs and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education
Licensure. Some States require laboratory
personnel to be licensed or registered. Licensure of technologists often
requires a bachelor's degree and the passing of an exam, but requirements vary
by State and specialty. Information on licensure is available from State
departments of health or boards of occupational licensing.
Certification and other qualifications.
Many employers prefer applicants who are certified by a recognized professional
association. Associations offering certification include the Board of Registry
of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Medical
Technologists, the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel, and
the Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts. These agencies
have different requirements for certification and different organizational
In addition to certification, employers seek clinical laboratory personnel
with good analytical judgment and the ability to work under pressure.
Technologists in particular are expected to be good at problem solving. Close
attention to detail is also essential for laboratory personnel because small
differences or changes in test substances or numerical readouts can be crucial
to a diagnosis. Manual dexterity and normal color vision are highly desirable,
and with the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment, computer skills
Advancement. Technicians can advance and
become technologists through additional education and experience. Technologists
may advance to supervisory positions in laboratory work or may become chief
medical or clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers in
hospitals. Manufacturers of home diagnostic testing kits and laboratory
equipment and supplies also seek experienced technologists to work in product
development, marketing, and sales.
Professional certification and a graduate degree in medical technology, one
of the biological sciences, chemistry, management, or education usually speeds
advancement. A doctorate usually is needed to become a laboratory director.
Federal regulation requires directors of moderately complex laboratories to have
either a master's degree or a bachelor's degree, combined with the appropriate
amount of training and experience.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
Find related resources below:
Clinical Laboratory Technician Employment
Clinical Laboratory Technician Training
Clinical Laboratory Technician Job Outlook
Clinical Laboratory Technician Income