Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician

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Salary Range: $40,000 to $59,999

Average Hourly: $ 26.05

Education: Bachelor's degree

Number of Jobs: 335500

Jobs Added to 2029: 36500

Growth: Faster than average



Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.

What Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians Do

Clinical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and clinical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Duties

Clinical 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

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. Clinical laboratory technicians usually work under the general supervision of clinical 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 clinical 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, clinical laboratory technicians may work in several areas of the laboratory or specialize in one area. For example, histotechnicians are a type of clinical 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

Many clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work in hospitals. Others work in medical and diagnostic laboratories or doctors’ offices.


Work Environment Details

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians held about 335,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians were as follows:
General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private 47%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 20
Offices of physicians 9
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5
Outpatient care centers 4

Clinical 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.

Injuries and Illnesses

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians risk injury or illness on the job. For example, they may be subject to repetitive motion injuries because they do the same tasks repeatedly.

Work Schedules

Most clinical 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.


Job Outlook

Employment of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 25,900 openings for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


How to Become a Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician

Clinical 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

Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor's degree in medical technology or a related life sciences field, such as biology. Clinical laboratory technicians typically need an associate's degree in a field such as clinical laboratory science.

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.

Clinical 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 clinical 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.

Clinical 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, American Medical Technologists, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Important Qualities

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

Detail oriented. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must follow exact instructions in order to perform tests or procedures correctly.

Dexterity. Clinical 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. Clinical 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 clinical 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).


United Kingdom Job Data

Source:

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