What Does a Medical Lab Tech Do?

A medical lab tech is an important member of the healthcare team. They perform a variety of tests to help diagnose and treat patients.

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Job Description

Medical laboratory technologists (MLTs) and medical laboratory technicians (MLAs) play a vital role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease. They work in all areas of the lab, performing tests on blood, tissues and body fluids.

Duties

A medical laboratory technologist (MLT) is a health care professional who performs biochemical, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological diagnostic analyses on body fluids such as blood, urine, sputum, cerebrospinal fluid, and peritoneal fluid. Analyses are done to detect, diagnose, and monitor diseases.

Medical laboratory technologists work in hospitals, clinics, public health laboratories, physician’s offices, and research laboratories. They may also find employment in the pharmaceutical industry or in companies that manufacture or distribute diagnostic equipment or supplies.

Most MLTs work full time. They may work evenings or weekends to cope with heavy workloads or to deal with emergencies.

Skills

Skills required for medical lab technicians include:
-The ability to take blood from patients
-The ability to handle and process blood, bodily fluids and tissue samples
-The ability to maintain clean and sterile work environments
-The ability to use laboratory equipment properly
-The ability to follow instructions correctly
-The ability to pay attention to detail
-The ability to communicate effectively with patients and medical staff
-The ability to work well under pressure

Education and Certification

Education for medical lab techs typically consists of completing a two-year associate’s degree in medical laboratory technology. Some techs may choose to further their education by completing a four-year bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science. Certification is also available and may be required by some employers.

Prerequisites

Typically, employers prefer to hire candidates who have completed a accredited certificate or degree program in medical laboratory technology. Most programs take two years to complete, although some schools offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs in medical laboratory science. These programs include coursework in chemistry, biology, microbiology and mathematics, as well as clinical experience. Some states require medical laboratory technologists to be licensed or registered.

Programs

Medical lab tech programs are available at the certificate, diploma, and bachelor’s degree levels. Programs typically take 2-4 years to complete, depending on the level of education.

Most programs include coursework in chemistry, biology, mathematics, and medical laboratory science. Students also complete clinical rotations in order to gain hands-on experience working in medical laboratories.

Upon completion of a medical lab tech program, students are eligible to take the national certification examination administered by the Board of Certification of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

Certification

The American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Certification offer national certification exams for medical lab technicians. Although certification is not required for employment, many employers prefer or require certification. To be eligible to take the AMT certification exam, candidates must have completed an accredited medical laboratory technician program and have worked full time for at least 1 year in a clinical laboratory. To be eligible to take the ASCP certification exam, candidates must have completed an accredited medical laboratory technician program or have worked full time in a clinical laboratory for at least 2 years with one of those years within the last 5 years.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual wage for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians was $51,770 in May 2019. Employment of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Salary

Medical lab techs earned a median salary of $51,770 in 2016, with the top 10 percent making more than $76,490. Wages typically start from $37,130 and go up to $74,040. An associate degree is the most common level of education achieved by medical lab techs, although some get bachelor’s degrees.

Job outlook
Employment of medical lab techs is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Advances in medical technologies and an aging population are expected to drive demand for diagnostic testing.
-See more at: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-6

Job Outlook

Medical laboratory technicians typically need at least an associate’s degree to enter the occupation. However, some positions may only require a certificate or postsecondary nondegree award.

Employment of medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth of the aging baby-boomer population is expected to lead to an increased demand for preventive medical services, which are often initially detected through laboratory tests.

In addition, as the cost of rapid and sophisticated diagnostic tests, such as DNA analyses and blood screenings, decreases, more diagnostic procedures are expected to be performed in outpatient care centers and doctors’ offices. This trend is also expected to create demand for more medical laboratory technicians and technologists in these settings.

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