Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Summary

medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians image
Clinical laboratory personnel examine and test body fluids and cells.
Quick Facts: Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
2014 Median Pay $49,310 per year
$23.71 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 328,200
Job Outlook, 2014-24 16% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 52,100

What Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians 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.

Work Environment

About half of all medical laboratory technologists and technicians were employed in hospitals in 2014. Others worked in doctors’ offices or diagnostic laboratories.

How to Become a Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians was $49,310 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians Do

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians
Laboratory personnel wear protective masks, gloves, and goggles to ensure their safety.

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.

Work Environment

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians
Medical laboratory technologists operate sophisticated laboratory equipment, such as microscopes and cell counters.

Medical laboratory technologists held about 164,800 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most medical laboratory technologists in 2014 were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 58%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 17
Offices of physicians 8
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5

Medical laboratory technicians held about 163,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most medical laboratory technicians in 2014 were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 44%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 19
Offices of physicians 12
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5

Medical laboratory personnel are trained to work with infectious specimens or with materials that are caustic or produce fumes. When they follow proper methods to control infection and sterilize equipment, the risk decreases. They wear protective masks, gloves, and goggles for their safety.

Technologists and technicians can be on their feet for long periods, and they may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples.

Work Schedules

Most medical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.

How to Become a Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians
Medical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree.

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.

Pay

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2014

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

$59,430

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

$49,310

Health technologists and technicians

$41,430

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

$38,370

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technologists was $59,430 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,180.

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was $38,370 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $59,750.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for medical laboratory technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $59,530
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 59,310
Offices of physicians 55,590
Colleges, universities, and professional schools;
state, local, and private
53,610

In May 2014, the median annual wages for medical laboratory technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:  

Hospitals; state, local, and private $39,050
Offices of physicians 38,570
Colleges, universities, and professional schools;
state, local, and private
38,000
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 37,360

 

Most medical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that are always open, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.

Job Outlook

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

18%

Health technologists and technicians

16%

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

16%

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

14%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of medical laboratory technologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster the average for all occupations. Employment of medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures. Prenatal testing for various types of genetic conditions also is increasingly common. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians will be in demand to use and maintain the equipment needed for diagnosis and treatment.

The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. As a result, demand for the services of laboratory personnel may grow as more patients who were previously uninsured, or found treatment to be cost-prohibitive, seek laboratory tests.

Job Prospects

Job prospects will be best for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians who complete an accredited education program and earn professional certification.

Employment projections data for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

29-2010 328,200 380,300 16 52,100 [XLSX]

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

29-2011 164,800 187,900 14 23,100 [XLSX]

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

29-2012 163,400 192,400 18 29,000 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Biological technicians

Biological Technicians

Biological technicians help biological and medical scientists conduct laboratory tests and experiments.

Bachelor's degree $41,290
Chemical technicians

Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to help chemists and chemical engineers research, develop, produce, and test chemical products and processes.

Associate's degree $44,180
Chemists and materials scientists

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and the ways in which the substances interact with one another. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products and to test the quality of manufactured goods.

Bachelor's degree $74,720
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to assist in diagnosing the injuries and illnesses of animals.

Associate's degree $31,070

Contacts for More Information

For more information about medical laboratory technologists and technicians, visit

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science

American Society of Cytopathology

For a list of accredited and approved educational programs for medical laboratory personnel, visit

National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences

For information on certification, visit

American Association of Bioanalysts

American Medical Technologists

American Society for Clinical Pathology 

O*NET

Cytogenetic Technologists

Cytotechnologists

Histotechnologists and Histologic Technicians

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm (visited February 13, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015