Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists Overview
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists should find excellent job opportunities. Many jobs are found in hospitals, but rapid employment growth is expected in a variety of settings. Most medical and clinical laboratory technologists have a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or one of the life sciences.
Nature of the Work for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
The detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease often begins with clinical laboratory testing, most of which are performed by medical and clinical laboratory technologists.
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists analyze and examine cells and body fluids, looking for parasites and other microorganisms, matching blood for transfusions, analyzing the chemical content of fluids and testing for drug levels in blood that can indicate that a treatment is working. They may also look for abnormal cells, count cells and prepare specimens for examination. On the job medical and clinical laboratory technologists must use sophisticated laboratory equipment including microscopes and cell counters. Automated equipment and computerized instruments are now becoming more popular and medical and clinical laboratory technologists can use them to perform a number of tests at the same time. After testing, examining and analyzing results, medical and clinical laboratory technologists pass their information to physicians.
Automation and computerization have both changed the work of medical and clinical laboratory technologists. Now it is more analytical and less hands on. Responsibilities and the complexity of tests performed depend largely on education and experience. Usually medical and clinical laboratory technologists take on more challenging work than technicians.
Complex biological, immunologic, microscopic, chemical, hematological and bacteriological tests all something medical and clinical laboratory technologists handle. They may make cultures from fluids or tissue samples to determine the presence of microorganisms such as bacteria, analyze samples for chemicals or concentrations such as cholesterol levels, and type and cross match blood samples for transfusions. Medical and clinical laboratory technologists evaluate test results, establish and monitor programs, ensure the accuracy of tests and develop and modify procedures.
In small labs medical and clinical laboratory technologists usually perform a wide variety of tests while those working in large labs usually specialize in one type. They may take on roles as microbiology technologists, blood bank technologists, immunology technologists, molecular biology technologists or cyotechnologists for example.
Because medical and clinical laboratory technologists are trained to work with infectious specimens, they must follow infection control and sterilization procedures to ensure few on the job hazards. Masks, goggles and gloves are often required for safety.
The type and size of employment setting often determines the working conditions. Many medical and clinical laboratory technologists work on their feet most of the day and in labs, fumes from solutions, reagents and specimens are not uncommon.
Hours also are tied to the place of employment. Large hospitals or continuously operation laboratories require workers during the day, evening and night hours as well as some weekend and holiday hours. In small facilities, they may work on rotating shifts or they may need to be on call during night and weekend hours in case of emergency.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
For entry-level positions most medical and clinical laboratory technologists need a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or a life science. However, some jobs may hire workers with a combination of specialized training and on the job training. Both hospitals and universities offer medical technology programs.
Medical technology bachelor’s degree programs cover microbiology, mathematics, chemistry, biological sciences and statistics along with courses covering clinical laboratory skills. Some programs also include business, management and computer applications classes. An associate degree is required for those completing highly complex tasks under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act.
Some states require registration or licensure of medical and clinical laboratory technologists, so prospective candidates should check with their local departments of health or boards of occupational licensing to determine the current requirements.
Many employers look for medical and clinical laboratory technologists with a professional certification from an organization such as the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. They also prefer candidates with good analytical judgment, good problem solving skills, the ability to pay close attention to details and the ability to work under pressure. Normal color vision and manual dexterity are also highly desirable. Because work is more automated, computer skills are important, too.
To advance medical and clinical laboratory technologists may become a supervisor, chief medical and clinical laboratory technologists or hospital laboratory manager. Some may work for manufacturers of laboratory equipment and supplies or home diagnostic testing kits in product development, sales or marketing.
To speed advancement, medical and clinical laboratory technologists may want to earn a professional certification and a graduate degree in medical technology, management, education or one of the biological sciences.
Top 10 Most Popular Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology/Technologist Schools
1. University of Cincinnati, Main Campus (Cincinnati, Ohio)
2. Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan)
3. University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
4. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
5. The University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, Texas)
6. Weber State University, Ogden (Ogden, Utah)
7. Ohio State University, Columbus (Columbus, Ohio)
8. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
9. University of Rhode Island (Kingston, Rhode Island)
10. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (Richmond, Virginia)
Most Popular Online Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology/Technologist Schools
Employment and Job Outlook for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
About 328,100 medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians are working in the field. Most work in hospitals, but jobs are also available in medical and diagnostic laboratories, offices of physicians, educational services and ambulatory healthcare services.
Employment is expected to grow by about 14 percent over the next decade for medical and clinical laboratory technologists, which means excellent job opportunities are expected.
As technology advances new powerful tests and advances in genomics will encourage more testing and thus more medical and clinical laboratory technologists, but the simplification and automation of routine tests will make them easy enough for patients and physicians to complete instead of medical and clinical laboratory technologists.
Job opportunities should be especially excellent for medical and clinical laboratory technologists, as the number of jobs will exceed the number of jobseekers. In addition to job growth, other jobs will become available as workers retire or leave the occupation.
Earnings and Salary for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
The median annual wages of medical and clinical laboratory technologists are $55,140. The highest 10 percent earn above $75,960, the lowest 10 percent earn under $37,540 and the middle 50 percent earn between $45,810 and $65,050. Broken down by the industries employing the most medical and clinical laboratory technologists, median annual salaries are as follows:
Colleges, universities and professional schools: $47,890 Offices of physicians: $49,080 Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $53,360 General medical and surgical hospitals: $54,220 Federal Executive Branch: $59,800
Hourly Wage for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
On average, Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists earn $26.51 per hour.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook