Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Summary

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Quick Facts: Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
2016 Median Pay $50,930 per year
$24.48 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, 2016 335,700
Job Outlook, 2016-26 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 42,700

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

Most medical laboratory technologists and technicians worked in hospitals in 2016. Others worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories or doctors’ offices.

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 technicians was $38,950 in May 2016.

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technologists was $61,070 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 About this section

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 under 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 area. For example, histotechnicians are a type of medical laboratory technician who cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists— 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 About this section

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

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians held about 164,200 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of medical and clinical laboratory technicians were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 43%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 18
Offices of physicians 12
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 6
Outpatient care centers 5

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists held about 171,400 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of medical and clinical laboratory technologists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 57%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 17
Offices of physicians 8
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 6
Federal government 3

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.

Injuries and Illnesses

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. They may be subject to repetitive motion injuries since they can perform the same tasks repeatedly.

How to Become a Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician About this section

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. Students typically complete college coursework and then apply to the clinical portion of the program. Coursework emphasizes laboratory skills, including safety procedures and lab management, while the clinical portion includes hands-on training in a typical work setting like a hospital. Some laboratory science programs can be completed in 2 years or less and require prior college coursework or a bachelor’s degree.

Medical laboratory technicians often complete an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory science. 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 and American Medical Technologists.

Important Qualities

Ability to use technology. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians must understand how to operate computerized lab equipment.

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 precision 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. Some colleges have bachelor’s degree programs for medical laboratory technicians to become technologists (often referred to as MLT to MLS programs).

Pay About this section

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2016

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

$61,070

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

$50,930

Health technologists and technicians

$42,750

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

$38,950

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was $38,950 in May 2016. 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 $26,010, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,720.

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technologists was $61,070 in May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,550, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,160.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for medical and clinical laboratory technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $40,870
Outpatient care centers 40,030
Hospitals; state, local, and private 39,690
Offices of physicians 39,150
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 37,420

In May 2016, the median annual wages for medical and clinical laboratory technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $64,210
Hospitals; state, local, and private 62,000
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 61,390
Offices of physicians 58,330
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 54,760

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 About this section

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

14%

Health technologists and technicians

14%

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

13%

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of medical laboratory technologists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster the average for all occupations. Employment of medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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.

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, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

29-2010 335,700 378,300 13 42,700 employment projections excel document xlsx

Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

29-2011 171,400 191,200 12 19,700 employment projections excel document xlsx

Medical and clinical laboratory technicians

29-2012 164,200 187,200 14 22,900 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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 Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Biological technicians

Biological Technicians

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

Bachelor's degree $42,520
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 $45,840
Chemists and materials scientists

Chemists and Materials Scientists

Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and analyze 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 $75,420
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 $32,490
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm (visited October 30, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.