Phlebotomy is not a career for people who faint at the sight of blood. It's also not for anybody lacking in people skills, because the phlebotomist is a front-line medical technician whose hands-on work requires patience and empathy as well as skillful knowledge of the field. But for people with the ability to do this work, phlebotomy is a promising career. Formal education for phlebotomists requires just a few months, and some phlebotomists simply receive on-the-job training. Phlebotomists do need to have a high school diploma or GED.
Career as a Phlebotomist
Phlebotomists are a specific type of medical technicians. They draw blood from patients for diagnostic medical tests, using several techniques. The most common technique is the venipuncture. For patients with hard-to-find veins, such as the elderly, they use a technique called the butterfly, and for infants, they use a small needle and a technique called the heel stick. Phlebotomists also handle, transport and process the blood. They have to separate the blood plasma from the serum, and they prepare micro-specimens to send to the lab.
Many colleges and technical schools offer a phlebotomy course for those who choose a formal training program. The cost of the programs vary considerably. Des Moines Area Community College offers a 13-week program. Prospective students need to provide an immunization record and a high school diploma or GED. The five-credit course teaches students the principles of phlebotomy, how to maintain a sterile environment and other necessary skills. The course includes time in the classroom and in a clinical setting. Lincoln Land Community College has a three-month course in phlebotomy. Similar to DMACC's program, students divide their time between the classroom and a clinical setting. Successful completion of this program also includes "100 successful unaided blood collections," according to the college's website.
Organizations That Offer Certification
At least three organizations offer certification. American Society for Clinical Pathology requires people to have a high school diploma or GED, complete 40 hours of classroom training and 120 hours of clinical training, and complete 100 successful, independent blood draws. The Association of Phlebotomy Technicians also requires 100 blood draws, as well as five skin punctures and completion of an accredited training program. People must also become members of the APT in order to qualify for certification. National Phlebotomy Association requires completion of a training program, including 160 classroom hours. All the organizations offer alternative routes to certification for people with work experience.
Salary and Job Prospects
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth from 2010 to 2020 for medical technicians is 13 percent, about average in comparison with other jobs. In 2012, phlebotomists earned an average annual salary of $30,910.
2016 Salary Information for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a median annual salary of $50,240 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $41,520, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $62,090, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 335,600 people were employed in the U.S. as medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.