Over 319,000 Medical Technologists and Medical Laboratory Technicians hold jobs in the US today. Since the development of this career profession in the 1920s, Medical Laboratory Technicians have played a vital role in the diagnosis and prevention of disease.
Nature of the Work
Medical Laboratory Technicians perform less complex tests and laboratory procedures than Medical Technologists. Technicians may:
- Prepare specimens and operate automated analyzers.
- Perform manual tests in accordance with detailed instructions.
- Work under the supervision of Medical Laboratory Technologists or Laboratory Managers.
Education and Training
Medical Laboratory Technicians generally have either an associate degree from a community or junior college; a vocational or technical school; or the Armed Forces. Those technicians that learned their skills on the job must also meet the educational requirements, and the necessary semester hours of training.
Nationally recognized agencies that accredit Medical Technologist and Medical Laboratory Technician programs include the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
Licensure: Some states require Medical Laboratory Technicians to be licensed or registered. Information on licensure is available from sate departments of health or boards of occupational licensing.
Certification: Many employers prefer applicants who are certified by a recognized professional association, such as the American Medical Technologists.
Other skills: Employers seek Medical Laboratory Technicians with good analytical judgment and the ability to work under pressure. Close attention to detail is also essential for Medical Laboratory Technicians because small differences or changes in test substances or numerical readouts can be crucial to a diagnosis. Manual dexterity and normal color vision are highly desirable, and with the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment, computer skills are important.
Advancement: Medical Laboratory Technicians can advance and become technologists through additional education and experience. Technologists may advance to supervisory positions in laboratory work or may become chief technologists or laboratory managers in hospitals. Manufacturers of home diagnostic testing kits and laboratory equipment and supplies also seek experienced technologists to work in product development, marketing, and sales. Professional certification, specialization and/or a graduate degree in medical technology, one of the biological sciences, chemistry, management, or education usually speeds advancement.
More than half of the Medical Laboratory Technicians jobs were in hospitals. Most of the remaining jobs were in offices of physicians and in medical and diagnostic laboratories.
Rapid job growth and excellent job opportunities for Medical Laboratory Technicians are expected. Most jobs will continue to be in hospitals, but employment will grow faster in other settings. Employment of Medical Laboratory Technicians is expected to grow 14 percent between 2006 and 2016, faster than average for all occupations. The volume of laboratory tests continues to increase with both population growth and the development of new types of tests.
Technological advances will continue to have opposing effects on employment. On the one hand, new, increasingly powerful diagnostic tests will encourage additional testing and spur employment. On the other, research and development efforts targeted at simplifying routine testing procedures may enhance the ability of nonlaboratory personnel—physicians and patients in particular—to perform tests now conducted in laboratories.
Job opportunities for Medical Laboratory Technicians are expected to be excellent because the number of job openings is expected to continue to exceed the number of job seekers. Although significant, job growth will not be the only source of opportunities. As in most occupations, many additional openings will result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or stop working for some other reason.
The median annual wage of medical laboratory technicians was $36,280 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned more than $24,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,040. In general, salaries are higher in a hospital setting than in physician offices.
Profession Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
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