Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist Jobs

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  • Medical Technologist - Lahey Clinic - Burlington, MA

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Top 3 Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician Jobs

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What Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

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 with 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 particular area. For example, histotechnicians cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists, who are 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 for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Medical laboratory technologists held about 164,800 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most medical laboratory technologists in 2014 were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 58%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 17
Offices of physicians 8
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5

Medical laboratory technicians held about 163,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most medical laboratory technicians in 2014 were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 44%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 19
Offices of physicians 12
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5

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.

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technician 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.

How to Become a Medical or Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians near you!

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.

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technician 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. Coursework emphasizes laboratory skills, including safety procedures and lab management.

The courses may be offered through a university or hospital-based program that students attend during their senior year of college. College graduates who major in other sciences and meet a program’s prerequisites, such as having completed required courses in biology and chemistry or maintaining a certain GPA, also may apply to a medical laboratory science program.

Medical laboratory technicians often complete an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory science. A limited number of 1-year certificate programs are available from hospitals, and admission requirements vary. 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.

Important Qualities of Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Ability to use technology. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians must understand how to operate complex machinery.

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 precise 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 for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

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.


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Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technician Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technologists was $60,520 in May 2015. 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 $41,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,300.

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was $38,970 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,810.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for medical laboratory technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $61,300
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 61,010
Offices of physicians 57,550
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 54,420

In May 2015, the median annual wages for medical laboratory technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $40,290
Hospitals; state, local, and private 39,890
Offices of physicians 39,320
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 37,410

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 for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of medical laboratory technologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster the average for all occupations. Employment of medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much 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.

The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. As a result, demand for the services of laboratory personnel may grow as more patients who were previously uninsured, or found treatment to be cost-prohibitive, seek laboratory tests.

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians 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, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians 328,200 380,300 16 52,100
  Medical and clinical laboratory technologists 164,800 187,900 14 23,100
  Medical and clinical laboratory technicians 163,400 192,400 18 29,000


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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