Intro to Medical Lab Technician Schools

For those looking to become a medical laboratory technician, a minimum of a two-year associate's degree in health science or a closely related healthcare subject is usually required to gain an entry-level position in the field. For those looking for more advancement, a bachelor's degree is recommended. There are numerous accredited online schools that offer such degrees, listed below.

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What degrees are offered at medical lab technician schools?

Very few schools offer degrees specific to medical lab technology, and in most cases, additional training or certifications is required. However, there are many majors that are used to start a career as a medical technician, often an associate degree in medical assisting or IT like:

What is Medical Lab Technician School?

Medical Lab Technician schools prepare students to analyze samples and perform diagnostic tests as requested by physicians. As a medical lab technician you will present lab results to doctors who will then diagnoses and administer treatment based on lab results. Your duties as a lab technician will vary depending on the type of medical laboratory you work in. The possibilities include hospitals, clinics, research facilities, crime laboratories, universities, pharmaceutical companies, and biomed companies. There are also options in a career as a medical lab technician in the military. If you enjoy working with animals you can even switch your focus and work as a veterinary lab technician. There are diverse types of laboratories that perform different types of analysis, including anatomic pathology, clinical microbiology, clinical biochemistry, hematology, and genetics. The microbiology lab is the largest lab in most hospitals, and therefore employs the most people. Within these lab settings they have bacteriology, virology, parasitology, immunology, and mycology labs. You would use equipment to study tissue, blood, and other samples from patients to help diagnose diseases, create cures, and otherwise study the human body.

To get an entry level laboratory technician position you need a minimum of a two-year associate’s degree in health science or a closely related healthcare subject. It helps if you have had previous relevant classes in high school, including high levels of math, science, and computer information technology. If you’re looking for more advancement within the laboratory technician field then a four-year bachelor's degree is recommended. There are many online medical lab technician programs that can train you for this career.

Working in a medical laboratory requires a high level of responsibility, manual dexterity, and the ability to work well under pressure. Going to medical lab technician school can be a very rewarding experience that gets you into a field that is full of variety and change. You can really make a difference in people’s lives through this career path.

What Does Medical Lab Technician School Entail?

As mentioned before, you must have an accredited associate’s or bachelor’s degree to work in the medical lab technician field. Employees also require certification after completion of the degree.

Usually medical lab technician programs have you major in medical technology or one of the life sciences such as biology, chemistry, or microbiology. It’s also possible to qualify for some jobs with a combination of education and on-the-job and specialized training. Coursework focuses on the clinical laboratory, and includes courses in chemistry, biological sciences, microbiology, mathematics, and statistics. Some four-year programs require additional coursework in business management, computer science, computer applications, business and communications, and almost all programs have specialized courses devoted to knowledge and skills used in the clinical laboratory.

It’s important to go to an accredited school as most employers won’t hire a person who trained at an unaccredited location. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) fully accredits around 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 Schools. These organizations’ websites provide search engines on which you can look up any medical lab technician school’s accreditation status.

Certification for Medical Lab Technicians

Almost all employers require their medical lab technician employees to have certification in addition to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. There are a few accredited organizations that provide these certifications:

  • American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP): The ASCP advocates on behalf of its members and the entire laboratory profession in Washington, D.C., as well as at state and local levels. They increase awareness of the profession and give recognition to its members. ASCP also helps ensure laboratory professionals are paid fairly and can find jobs across the country through its job listings. There is a variety of certifications available from the ASCP including the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certification and the Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) certification.
    To obtain MLT or MLS certification, you must provide proof that you meet the educational requirements, and then pass the ASCP examination. Recertification is required every five years. If you have ASCP certification you then have access to a network of professional laboratory clinicians already working in the field. Newsletters, continuing education courses, and annual workshops will allow you to stay current with industry standards and regulations. According to the ASCP those certified earn a higher overall pay compared with other certifications.
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT): This is a nationally and internationally recognized certification agency and membership society for laboratory and other allied health professionals. There are more than 40,000 AMT-certified professionals. The AMT offers certification tests that allow you to work in clinical laboratory settings, including the Medical Lab Technician (MLT) certification, and the Medical Lab Technologist (MT) certification. AMT membership allows access to a career placement database for healthcare careers, continuing education programs, and educational workshops that keep members up to date with the latest industry trends.
  • American Association of Bioanalysts Board of Registry (AAB): AAB is dedicated to serving the community clinical laboratory and the professionals involved in clinical laboratory operations. They have certification options with the purpose of identifying, on a non-discriminatory basis, those individuals who meet the minimum requirements for certification. Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) from AAB is in one or more of six technical disciplines: Chemistry, Hematology, Immunology, Immunohematology, Microbiology, and Molecular Diagnostics. The AAB also offer certification as a Medical Technologist (MT) in up to seven of the following disciplines: Chemistry, Hematology, Immunology, Immunohematology, Microbiology, Molecular Diagnostics, Andrology and Embryology.
  • To become AAB-certified, you must provide a college transcript and be able to pass the examination. The certification process usually takes six to eight weeks. Certified AAB members have access to a job board and a network of other AAB members. Continuing education courses are also offered for free to allow further learning in clinical laboratory procedures.

Career Outlook after Medical Lab Technician School?

A lab technician career may be a good fit for you if you have a strong interest in science and particularly enjoy anatomy and physiology, you prefer to work in a lab behind a microscope over interacting with patients, and you enjoy solving mysteries or finding answers to the unknown. There are many career options after medical lab technician school, each with varying salaries, positions, and types of lab locations.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical lab technicians and technologists held about 328,100 jobs in 2008. More than half of jobs were in hospitals, while the others were in offices of physicians and in medical and diagnostic laboratories. A small proportion was in educational services and in all other ambulatory healthcare services. Although hospitals are expected to continue to be the major employer of clinical laboratory workers, employment is also expected to grow rapidly in medical and diagnostic laboratories, offices of physicians, and all other ambulatory healthcare services. Between 2008 and 2018, employment is expected to increase by 14% as the volume of laboratory tests continues to grow with both population growth and the development of new types of tests.

The median annual wage of medical and clinical laboratory technicians was $35,380 in May 2008. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of medical and clinical laboratory technologists were:

  • Federal Executive Branch: $36,840
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $36,290
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $33,980
  • Offices of physicians: $32,630
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools: $31,320

After going to medical lab technician school there are many different types of laboratory professions that you can have within these branches. Some of these different types include:

  • Medical laboratory scientists
  • Medical laboratory technicians
  • Cytotechnologists
  • Histotechnologists
  • Phlebotomists
  • Molecular biologists
  • Pathologists' assistant
  • Clinical chemists

According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology, median hourly wages of staff clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, in various specialties and laboratory types, in 2007 were:

  • Cytotechnologist: $27.55 (hospital); $28.75 (private clinic); $26.24 (physician office laboratory)
  • Histotechnologist: $22.93 (hospital); $23.35 (private clinic); $25.00 (physician office laboratory)
  • Medical technologist: $23.45 (hospital); $23.00 (private clinic); $20.00 (physician office laboratory)
  • Histotechnician: $20.00 (hospital); $20.00 (private clinic); $21.00 (physician office laboratory)
  • Medical laboratory technician: $18.54 (hospital); $17.00 (private clinic); $16.96 (physician office laboratory)
  • Phlebotomist: $12.50 (hospital); $12.50 (private clinic); $13.00 (physician office laboratory)