Clinical Laboratory Technologist
Clinical Laboratory Technologist
Education and Training: Bachelor's degree plus training
Salary: Average—$45,730 per year
Employment Outlook: Excellent
Definition and Nature of the Work
Clinical laboratory technologists perform laboratory tests that are crucial to the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. They look for evidence of the presence of illnesses and parasites, identify allergic reactions and changes in body chemistry, and type and cross-match blood. They prepare vaccines and serums. Technologists perform exacting microscopic chemical and bacteriological tests, much more complex than performed by clinical laboratory technicians. Clinical laboratory technologists also work as supervisors, teachers, and administrators.
Clinical laboratory technologists test blood, urine, other body fluids, and tissue samples that doctors send to the laboratory. For example, technologists analyze blood and urine to look for signs of diseases, such as hemophilia or diabetes. They are also responsible for matching blood samples so that patients are given the correct type of blood during transfusions. Clinical laboratory technologists identify parasites and bacteria through their tests. The technologist's work is important, because doctors depend on complex tests to diagnose and determine treatment for patients' illnesses.
Technologists may specialize in such areas as blood banking, virology (the study of viruses), cytology (analysis of body cells), and histology (tissue preparation and examination). In large hospitals most technologists specialize in one area. In smaller laboratories they usually perform a variety of duties.
Clinical laboratory technologists work in large hospital laboratories, laboratories of private physicians, public health laboratories, and in medical research institutes. Technologists also work in colleges and universities, companies that manufacture drugs and laboratory test equipment, and the armed services.
Education and Training Requirements
To become a clinical laboratory technologist, you need a bachelor's degree with a major in medical technology or in one of the life sciences. Colleges and universities offer medical technology programs accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
Recent graduates who pass the appropriate examinations can become certified. Several organizations offer this certification. Certification is important for technologists, because it indicates that they have met recognized standards of competence. Some states require that technologists be licensed. Requirements for licensing vary but usually include a written examination.
Many universities offer graduate programs in medical technology and related subjects for technologists who want to do certain types of laboratory work or for those who want to work in teaching, administration, or research.
Getting the Job
The placement office of your school can give you job information. You may find employment where you received your clinical training. Newspaper want ads, Internet job banks, and medical journals sometimes list openings. It is a good idea to apply directly to hospitals and laboratories. You can also apply for a position with federal, state, and local health departments.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Technologists can advance with further training. They may choose to specialize in one form of laboratory work or do research. Technologists can also advance to positions as teachers or administrators. A master's degree is generally required for these jobs.
The employment outlook is expected to grow faster than average through 2014 because of increased volume of medical testing due to population growth and an increase in disease and disability among the older population. New, more powerful and accurate diagnostic tests and advances in biotechnology should create a need for qualified medical technologists. Workers will be needed to fill supervisory positions in all laboratories. However, because of advances in equipment, technicians can now do tests that once required the expertise of a technologist.
Working conditions for medical technologists are generally pleasant. Most laboratories are clean and well lighted. With careful training and proper handling of materials, technologists can keep hazards to a minimum. There are many opportunities for part-time work. Hospital workers may be on emergency call twenty-four hours a day at least once a month. Most technologists work a forty-hour week and may work day, evening, or night shifts.
Where to Go for More Information
American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
6701 Democracy Blvd., Ste. 300
Bethesda, MD 20817
National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
8410 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 670
Chicago, IL 60631
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on experience, location, and the type of laboratory. Median annual earnings of medical and clinical laboratory technologists were $45,730 in 2004. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations and health insurance.