Medical technologist or technician is a growing profession with an average salary of over $46,600 per year as of 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working as a laboratory clinician in a hospital, independent lab or other healthcare setting requires a post-secondary degree as well as a license or certification from a nationally recognized agency. Before deciding on a training program, you'll need to make sure that your school provides an approved curriculum that allows you to take the national certification exam.
If you graduate from a qualified training program, the American Medical Technologists certification process allows you to become a certified med tech. AMT certification is different than licensure, however, which is typically state-issued, while certification is a voluntary credential from a professional organization. The American Society for Clinical Pathology also certifies med techs at the national level. Although voluntary, certification provides a professional credential that may give you a competitive edge in the job market.
Technologist vs. Technician
Med techs include medical technologists and medical technicians. While the two sound alike, the schooling for each is not the same. According to the BLS, medical technicians typically need an associate degree, while medical technologists require at least a bachelor's. Both types of med techs work in laboratory settings, running clinical tests on specimens. Technologists may run more complex tests or work in leadership roles, such as lab manager.
Future med techs who want to work as medical technicians can complete an associate degree at a technical school or community college. These are typically two-year programs of study. Some schools provide a curriculum allowing you to transfer to a four-year bachelor's program and become a medical technologist. For example, Delaware Technical Community College offers a medical laboratory technician associate degree that provides the skills and knowledge necessary to sit for the ASCP exam or transfer to a bachelor's program.
At the bachelor's level, programs that lead to med tech certification offer a medical technologist or clinical laboratory science degree. For example, Rutgers University offers a Bachelor of Science with a major in medical technology. This program includes the science, general education and hands-on clinical classes that you'll need to take a national medical technologist certification exam. Rutgers' program includes three years of classroom courses and an additional fourth year of clinical practice at a local hospital or medical center.