How to Become a Medical Lab Technician

One of the fastest-growing areas of the economy today is the medical field. As the population grows and ages, the need for people to process, examine, and handle medical fluids, tissue, and cells will only continue to increase.

What Does a Medical Lab Technician Do?

Medical lab technicians have a very important job: they must work with medical lab technologists in handling, preparing, and examining specimens from the body to determine things such as the presence of cancer cells; the type of blood when matching a patient to blood for a transfusion, and inspecting tissue and blood for signs of disease, infection, and other issues.

Medical lab technicians also are responsible for obtaining the results of tests and reporting the findings to doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.

Medical lab technicians work in an environment with computers, microscopes, and even robots to complete tasks, though a large part of the job is often a matter of analyzing the medical findings of the tissue which has been processed by technology. The work environment usually relies on people who work well with others, can give and take orders, and sometimes necessitates long or odd hours.

One of the unique aspects of working in the medical field is that you come in contact with bodily fluids, tissue, disease, germs, and odors. That fact may upset some people who are not used to working with such elements, and others may find it grim or even depressing. Be sure you know what you are getting into when considering any job in the medical field. Some people are cut out for these types of jobs; others aren’t!
What Kind of Education Should Medical Lab Technicians Have?

Becoming a medical lab technician requires usually only an Associate’s degree; Associates degrees can be obtained in two years, though many educational schools offer their students fast-track options which allow then to complete their Associate’s degrees in less than two years.

Some medical lab technicians don’t even need an Associate’s degree. Instead, they pursue certificate or training programs which usually means obtaining the necessary skills for less money and in less time than a traditional college degree program.

Technicians can become technologists – a role with higher pay and more responsibilities. Such promotions come with more experience and a higher-level educational degree; a Bachelor’s degree is typically held by medical lab technologists.

What’s the Pay Like?

Being a medical lab technician does not mean earning big-time six-figure or even high five-figure incomes, in most cases. However, medical lab technicians can expect to earn a solid income in the $30,000-40,000 range, depending on the market and experience (many earn more or less than that).

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science reminds students entering a clinical laboratory career to check with their state for licensure requirements. Licensure may pose an extra step between you and your goals of being a medical lab technician, but it is a part of the process that will open up many more doors in your career.

Being a medical lab technician can be a demanding job, especially if you work in a busy regional hospital or medical center with 24/7 operating hours. However, it’s a career field where there is always demand, and one which can provide the dedicated medical lab technician satisfaction, good pay, and the chances for advancement.


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