Medical laboratory technicians collect and process specimens used in the analysis and diagnosis of patient illness and disease. With advancements in technology and the precise nature of the tasks undertaken by medical lab technicians, postsecondary training and certification is required in most states. Completing your associate degree and passing required certification exams will prepare you for a fulfilling career as a medical laboratory technician.
Foundation Coursework and Preparation
Colleges offering an associate in applied science degree for laboratory technicians require a strong history of academic excellence. The degree requires a foundation in science and math with a grade of “C” or higher to gain admission to the program. Consider taking courses in biology and algebra while still in high school or college-level biology, chemistry and algebra prior to applying to the medical technician degree area. Due to the nature of the medical laboratory technician position, students need to be in good health and have the fine motor skills necessary to handle instruments and samples.
Medical Laboratory Technician Courses
Two-year medical technician degree programs will focus on laboratory skills and liberal arts courses to provide students with the well-rounded background needed to be successful. Courses in anatomy and physiology, algebra, interpersonal communication, English, chemistry and ethics will provide students with the skills to succeed in technical coursework and in their career. Students will develop an understanding of body processes and fluid production while taking courses in hematology, body fluids/urinalysis and immunology. Skills in testing tissues and fluid samples are developed while taking courses in serology and histology.
Clinical coursework is essential in developing practical skills needed for success as a laboratory technician. Under the guidance of clinical laboratory scientists or technologists, students will work in laboratory settings to practice using laboratory equipment, testing samples and analyzing data. Students will practice phlebotomy procedures of drawing blood, blood banking, collecting body fluids, testing samples and recording data. Other essential elements of clinical hours include developing professional skills, maintaining a safe work environment, and working well with patients and staff.
Licensing and Certification
Medical laboratory technicians are most often required to be certified to begin their career. However, some states such as New York and California also require licensing. Both licensing and certification require an associate’s degree and the successful completion of competency examinations. Competency exams are given by the American Medical Technologists, American Association of Bioanalysts and American Society for Clinical Pathology. Depending on your state and career path, you must decide which certification exam fits your certification or licensing needs.
Special Considerations and Advancement
Students seeking to obtain certification or licensing in laboratory careers may also qualify after completing training while in the military. Clinical medical laboratory technicians provide laboratory testing and analysis under the guidance of laboratory technologists or laboratory scientists. Advancement to positions of laboratory management, technologist or other specialization generally requires completion of additional education leading to a bachelor's degree and corresponding licensing examinations.