Clinical Laboratory Technologists

What they do on a daily basis

More than 70% of medical diagnosis depends on lab work. Medical laboratory technologists, also known as clinical laboratory scientists, are the ones who perform the tests. They are experts at many different types of medical tests, from needle aspirations and cell scrapes to analysis of blood. They prepare samples using dyes and other preparations and use a microscope to make observations. They also make reports outlining their findings. When there are abnormalities present, doctors have the final say in making a diagnosis. Technologists may act with some autonomy, however, when it comes to reporting normal findings.

Become a Clinical Laboratory Technician

Laboratory Technologist Resources...

Medical laboratory technicians perform the more routine tests; they may be supervised by more highly educated technologists. Some of the work of a medical technician or technologist can be routine or monotonous. It’s also challenging, as there are a lot of types of test. Technologists who work for smaller labs are more likely to do a little of everything, while those who work for larger labs are more likely to focus on specific types of tests. Some medical technologists become experts in particular fields, including hematology, cytotechnology, or molecular genetics. Among the more common molecular tests are those required for genetic profiling; less common ones look for particular mutations.

Education and Credentialing

A person can become a technician with an associate’s degree (or two years of a college program that includes substantial biology and chemistry classwork). A bachelor’s degree, meanwhile, is the standard for medical technology. Some technologists possess graduate degrees.

There are several educational pathways. There are Bachelor of Science programs available in clinical lab science. A lab technologist’s undergraduate degree is often not in medical technology, though, but in a natural science field like microbiology. The graduate may then enroll in a one year certificate program. Voluntary certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) is the standard in many parts of the country. A few states, though, license the profession. There has been a growing movement toward licensing health professions in recent years. The American Medical Technologists (AMT) also offers certification at the technician or technologist level. Requirements are similar but not identical.

Salary and Career Outlook for Clinical Laboratory Technologists

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a mean annual salary of $56,870 for technologists in 2010. The middle 50% earned between $47,130 and $66,370. Geography and work setting both influenced earnings. The federal government was a high paying employer, as were specialty hospitals. However, these industries employ fewer workers than traditional medical facilities. Doctor’s offices and ambulatory care facilities were among the lower paying employers.

California’s licensed technologists averaged $75,160, nearly $20,000 above the national average (though the Golden State is of course also known for a high cost of living). Nevada, DC, Massachusetts, and Alaska also paid wages well above the mean. The Medical Laboratory Observer reported a slightly higher annual salary of $60,815. This survey may reflect a slightly more credentialed set of respondents. (The ASCP noted, in a separate salary report, that certified medical technologists earned as much as 14% more than noncertified ones.)

Lesser trained technicians, meanwhile, pulled in an average $38,190, according to the BLS. This time, Rhode Island was the leader: $59,510. Other states that paid above the norm were DC, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Hampshire. Hospitals paid slightly more than labs and doctor’s offices. The best paying employers included dentist’s offices, medical equipment manufacturing, and junior colleges.

The BLS predicted 14% growth in jobs for medical technologists and technicians between 2008 and 2018, noting that scientific advancement would fuel increased demand. The BLS noted that as some of the more routine duties become automated, there would be demand for medical technologists who could analyze and make decisions.

Additional Information

To learn more about becoming a clinical laboratory technologist, you may wish to explore schools that offer science related bachelor degrees. You may also be interested in learning more about then certification and licensure process for technologists across the country. Another option is to explore additional careers in health care whether they be in diagnostics or another area of health care.