How to Become a Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician
Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. Technicians sometimes qualify for jobs with an associate’s degree. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed. Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have certification.
High school students who are interested in becoming a clinical laboratory technologist or technician should take classes in chemistry, biology, and math.
Clinical laboratory technologists typically earn a bachelor's degree in medical technology or a related life sciences field, such as biology or chemistry.
Bachelor’s degree programs in medical laboratory technology, also known as a medical laboratory scientist degree, include courses in chemistry, biology, and hematology. Accredited programs typically include instruction in laboratory skills, such as safety procedures and lab management, as well as hands-on training in a hospital or other clinical setting. Some laboratory science programs can be completed in 2 years or less and require prior college coursework or a bachelor’s degree.
Clinical laboratory technicians typically complete an associate's degree program in clinical laboratory science. The Armed Forces and vocational or technical schools also may offer postsecondary certificate programs for medical laboratory technicians. Accredited technician programs provide skills in basic laboratory testing and, like medical laboratory scientist degree programs, may offer clinical experience.
Certain types of technologists, such as cytotechnologists, must attend specialized education programs.
For a list of accredited bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs, visit organizations such as the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed or registered. Requirements vary by state and specialty. For specific requirements, contact your state department of health or state board of occupational licensing.
In some states, licensure requires certification. Although certification is not always required to enter the occupation, employers may prefer to hire certified technologists and technicians.
Individuals may earn certification as a medical laboratory scientist or medical laboratory technician. Completion of an accredited education program is typically required to sit for a certification exam. A number of organizations offer certification, including the American Association of Bioanalysts, American Medical Technologists, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Specialty certification is available in areas such as histology and clinical chemistry for those who meet requirements for additional education and work experience.
Some clinical laboratory technicians advance to technologist positions after gaining experience and additional education.
Analytical skills. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must examine the specimens they test to determine whether there are abnormalities.
Detail oriented. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must follow instructions and laboratory procedures when performing tests.
Dexterity. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must work carefully when handling needles, specimens, and laboratory equipment.
Interpersonal skills. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians may collect blood or tissue samples from patients who feel stressed. They must be supportive and sympathetic in their interactions with patients.
Physical stamina. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians may stand for long periods while collecting samples. They may need to lift or turn patients to collect samples for testing.