The usual requirement for an entry-level position as a clinical
laboratory technologist is a bachelor's degree with a major in medical
technology or one of the life sciences; however, it is possible to
qualify for some jobs with a combination of education and on-the-job and
specialized training. Universities and hospitals offer medical
Bachelor's degree programs
in medical technology include courses in chemistry, biological sciences,
microbiology, mathematics, and statistics, as well as specialized
courses devoted to knowledge and skills used in the clinical laboratory.
Many programs also offer or require courses in management, business, and
computer applications. The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act requires
technologists who perform highly complex tests to have at least an
Medical and clinical
laboratory technicians generally have either an associate degree from a
community or junior college or a certificate from a hospital, a
vocational or technical school, or the Armed Forces. A few technicians
learn their skills on the job.
Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) fully
accredits about programs for medical and clinical laboratory technologists, medical
and clinical laboratory technicians, histotechnologists and
histotechnicians, cytogenetic technologists, and diagnostic molecular
scientists. NAACLS also approves about 60 programs in phlebotomy and
clinical assisting. Other nationally recognized agencies that accredit
specific areas for clinical laboratory workers include the
Commission on Accreditation of Allied
Health Education Programs and the
Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
Licensure and Certification
Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed or registered.
Licensure of technologists often requires a bachelor's degree and the
passing of an exam, but requirements vary by state and specialty.
Information on licensure is available from State departments of health
or boards of occupational licensing.
Many employers prefer
applicants who are certified by a recognized professional association.
Associations offering certification include the Board of Registry of the
American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Medical
Technologists, the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory
Personnel, and the Board of Registry of the American Association of
Bioanalysts. These agencies have different requirements for
certification and different organizational sponsors.
In addition to certification, employers seek clinical laboratory
personnel with good analytical judgment and the ability to work under
pressure. Technologists in particular are expected to be good at problem
solving. Close attention to detail is also essential for laboratory
personnel because small differences or changes in test substances or
numerical readouts can be crucial to a diagnosis. Manual dexterity and
normal color vision are highly desirable, and with the widespread use of
automated laboratory equipment, computer skills are important.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.