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Degrees and Schools
Most medical laboratory technicians have either an associates degree in medical technology from a community college or vocational school, or a certificate from a hospital training program or vocational school. A few lab technicians receive on-the-job training instead of formal education.
Employers prefer graduates of programs accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
Students working to become medical laboratory technicians divide their time between classroom and supervised lab experience. Courses typically include:
- microbiological analysis of body fluids
- cellular analysis of body fluids
- chemical analysis of body fluids
- blood banking test procedures
- clinical chemistry test procedures
- hematology test procedures
- microbiology test procedures
- serology test procedures
- urinalysis test procedures
Graduates of programs that place strong emphasis on the sciences are qualified for positions in industrial laboratories in addition to the hospital laboratories, physicians' offices, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, research and educational institutions and public health agencies where most clinical laboratory technicians work.
Online Classes and Programs
Any medical laboratory technician or medical technology program should be accredited by the NAACLS, which lists few if any Web-only certificate or degree programs. However, many campus programs offer at least some online classes as part of their course offerings.
Laboratory personnel are required in some states to be registered or licensed; requirements vary by state.
Voluntary certification through the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the ASCP Board of Certification (BOC), the Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts, and/or American Medical Technologists can provide significant career advantage.
How to Evaluate Schools
Asking the following questions can be useful when evaluating medical laboratory technician or medical technology degree and certificate programs:
- Accreditation and focus - Is the program accredited by the NAACLS? Do courses and practical experience qualify students for national certification as well as any state requirements in the state where the student plans to work?
- Practical experience - Does the program require substantial supervised clinical experience? Are clinical experience labs reputable and equipped with the latest technology?
- Class structure - Are classes or labs difficult to get into? What is the student/teacher ratio?
- Tuition and financial aid - What grants, student loans, scholarships and work / study financial aid opportunities are available?
- Graduate success - Over the past several years, how many graduates were eligible to sit for national certification examinations? What is the program's track record in job placement?
Medical Lab Technician Job Description
When doctors order blood, urine or other tests to assess patients' health, medical laboratory technicians test the collected specimens according to established protocols. By personally examining and analyzing these samples for bacteria, parasites, fungi and other microorganisms, clinical laboratory technicians can identify many diseases and conditions, providing valuable diagnostic information to physicians.
Medical laboratory technicians are also known as Clinical laboratory technicians.
Medical lab technicians prepare samples for testing, operate automated analyzers and conducting manual tests. In smaller laboratories, they may work in several areas within the lab, while in large laboratories their work may be dedicated to one area.
The technicians usually are under the supervision of physicians, medical laboratory managers and medical laboratory technologists. Compared to medical laboratory technologists, technicians usually have less education and training. Technologists, for instance, will typically need a bachelor's degree. Technologists also undertake more complex and sophisticated tests than technicians.
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