Certified Medical Lab Technician Career Guide

Overview

As the name suggests, a medical lab technician spends the bulk of their time in a lab running all sorts of tests, procedures and even some experiments. Using all sorts of body fluid such as blood, synovial fluid and urine, a lab technician is able to conduct microscopic, hematological, chemical and bacterial tests for the purpose of diagnosing the disease or condition in a patient.

Most medical labs are equipped with sophisticated machinery and complex equipment. As a medical lab technician you will be operating such machinery to conduct various tests that are crucial to determining the health and treatment of the patient. With your expertise, you will be able to accurately conduct tests that will help senior physicians determine the condition of the patient.

Most medical lab technicians are generalists but can also specialize in a certain area. Actually, there are quite a few fields where a lab technician can focus on such as microbiology, toxicology, virology, hematology, mycology, immunology and many others. Naturally one would need the right qualifications and certification if they wish to specialize in a certain sub field.

Job Duties

The job duties of a medical lab technician are many and can range from a number of different activities that depend on the size of the lab and the scope of activities. However to give you a general idea of what to expect in most scenarios, the common activities are listed below. Please keep in mind that actual job duties may vary from position to position. You may start off with limited duties that may be expanded later on as you gain experience.

  1. Since most of your time will be spent in a lab, you will be responsible for the general maintenance and hygiene of the equipment and environment
  2. You will have to carefully prepare specimens and samples for all tests. You will also need to furnish background and supporting data
  3. A complete inventory of lab equipment, items and peripherals must be maintained at all times to ensure proper recording
  4. Maintaining receipts, purchase orders and invoices of all items that are purchased by the facility. This is important as you need to be aware of all new equipment coming into a lab as its assets
  5. Documenting test procedures and results are necessary to ensure accurate reporting and record keeping. These documents may be referred to at a later date
  6. Working as a team with other lab technicians under the guidance of a senior physician. During large cases you will need to work with other colleagues in order to assist the leading physician

Career Outlook

With new forms of diseases and viruses that are being created and evolving naturally, it is important to have ample labs and testing facilities to protect the human race. Furthermore, the food and agricultural output industry are changing rapidly which has placed pressure on corporations to have their products thoroughly tested through labs. These factors contribute to the increasing demand for medical lab technicians.

According to the statistical database at The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected growth in the employment of medical lab technicians is around 15% during the period of 2010 to 2020. This roughly translates to over 40,000 new jobs in the industry (bls.gov).

Salary Prospects

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for medical lab technicians in 2010 was about $46,680 – this translates to about $22.44 per hour (bls.gov). As you gain market experience and as the scope of your activities expand, this figure is likely to increase. Furthermore, if you find an area of focus, such as the ones listed earlier in this article, you may be able to increase your earnings.

Educational Requirements

To become a medical lab technician you need to possess the right academic qualifications. It is preferred by employers that candidates possess a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent in medical technology. It is best if you find a medical lab technician program that has been recognized and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

For certification and related information, you should visit the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ascp.org). Employers may prefer candidates who are certified as then a minimum standard of industry excellence is guaranteed. Do keep in mind that certification requirements may vary from state to state and may not be the same for all specializations.

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