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
2012 Median Pay $47,820 per year
$22.99 per hour
Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 325,800
Job Outlook, 2012-22 22% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 70,600

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 2012. 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 laboratory technologists was $57,580 in May 2012. The median annual wage for medical laboratory technicians was $37,240 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. An increase in the aging population will lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures.

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
Protective masks, gloves, and goggles often are necessary to ensure the safety of laboratory personnel.

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. Medical laboratory technologists perform complex medical laboratory tests; medical laboratory technicians perform routine medical laboratory tests.

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 manual tests that are based on detailed instructions, 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 generally 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 164,300 jobs in 2012. Medical laboratory technicians held about 161,500 jobs in 2012.

The industries that employed the most medical laboratory technologists and technicians in 2012 were as follows:

General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private50%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories17
Offices of physicians10
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private5

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.

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

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

How to Become a Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians
Blood bank technologists, or immunohematology technologists, collect, type, and prepare blood and its components for transfusions.

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

Universities and hospitals offer medical technology programs. 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 includes courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, mathematics, and statistics, as well as courses in clinical laboratory skills, management, and education. This degree often is known as a medical laboratory scientist degree.

The courses may be offered through a 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, 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 for those who already have a degree in a related field, such as nursing. The Armed Forces and vocational or technical schools also may offer certificate programs for medical laboratory technicians. The 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 courses in chemistry, biology, and mathematics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed or registered. To be licensed, a technologist often needs a bachelor's degree and must pass an exam. However, requirements vary by state and specialty. For specific requirements, contact state departments of health or boards of occupational licensing.

Certification of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is required for licensure in some states and by some employers. 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 examination. Although certification is not required to enter the occupation in all cases, employers typically prefer to hire certified technologists and technicians.

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 from physicians in order to perform correct tests or procedures.

Dexterity. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians require skill while working with their hands. They work closely with needles and precise laboratory instruments and must be able to 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.

Pay

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

$57,580

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

$47,820

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

$37,240

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for medical laboratory technologists was $57,580 in May 2012. 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 $39,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,900. 

The median annual wage for medical laboratory technicians was $37,240 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $57,710. 

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 2012-22

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

30%

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

22%

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

14%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of medical laboratory technologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.

An increase in the aging population will lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians will be in demand, to use and maintain the equipment needed for diagnosis and treatment.

Federal health legislation will increase the number of patients who have access to health insurance, increasing patient access to medical care. As a result, demand for the services of laboratory personnel will grow.

Employment projections data for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

29-2010 325,800 396,500 22 70,600 [XLS]

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

29-2011 164,300 187,100 14 22,700 [XLS]

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

29-2012 161,500 209,400 30 47,900 [XLS]

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 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.

Associate’s degree $30,290
Biological technicians

Biological Technicians

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

Bachelor’s degree $39,750
Chemical technicians

Chemical Technicians

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

Associate’s degree $42,920
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 substances react with each other. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products and to test the quality of manufactured goods.

Bachelor’s degree $73,060

Contacts for More Information

For more information about medical laboratory technologists and technicians, visit

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

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists

Cytogenetic Technologists

Cytotechnologists

Histotechnologists and Histologic Technicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 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 April 20, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014