How to Become a Medical Lab Technician – Steps, Education, Certification

If your idea of healthcare workers revolved around patient care, then it certainly needs to explore the new horizons. Healthcare Industry indeed has small roles that make significant impacts. One of which is the Medical Lab Technician.

This ‘unheard term’ by many will soon be one term that echoes in every health department in the coming years.

We say let’s start preparing for this at this very moment. Conducting daily tests on the specimen under the guidance of physicians and reporting the results is what a Medical Lab Technician does. The task demands utmost precision and accuracy to ensure no single report deviates from the originality. What would you need? How to become a medical laboratory technician? How much growth can you expect? It is all listed for you below.

What is a Medical Laboratory Technician?

As evident from the term itself, a technician working on specimens and samples of patients in a medical laboratory is a Medical Laboratory Technologist. Such specimens consist of blood & urine samples largely. These are then studied using specific equipment to detect any abnormalities. If there arise some, then these are directly appropriately documented and reported to the physician.

Steps to become a Clinical Lab Technician 

Becoming a Clinical Laboratory Technician consists of no hardships that you haven’t heard before. It is all about completing an associate degree and then walking down the path of certification, licensure, and experience. Here’s how you do it.

Step 1 – Think about It

First things first, you need to know if this is what you actually want. For starters, it is always essential to know how much do lab techs make? Further, it would be best to make yourself habitual to precision, accuracy, and organizing capabilities. Subsequently, you must know how these hardware and software work. To say, you should be well-versed with Advanced Technology. These three qualities are a must if you are opting for the Clinical Lab Technician path.

Step 2 – Obtain the Required Education 

Start by fulfilling your high school studies to formulate a proper soft skill background for this field. A two-year associate degree program is what you need to be doing as a part of formal education. Make sure it is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. This part of your career will make you sit in a classroom full of medical terminologies, equipment for practical lessons, and every small procedural practice to go through.

Step 3 – Obtain Appropriate Technical Education

You do know that the work of a medical lab technician revolves around software and hardware. For what’s worth, having the basic knowledge right before you enter the field takes you one step ahead of others. The two-year associate degree that you attain from accredited lab tech programs guides you for practicalities through lab lessons and experiments. Meanwhile, you can also learn about software side by side.

Step 4 – Medical Laboratory Technician Certification & Licensing 

Now it is about adding feathers to your hat. The hat you wear must comprise feathers that depict your name’s reliability, knowledge, and experience. The American Medical Technologist (AMT), American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), and American Association of Bioanalysts (ABB) are three organizations issuing certifications. You need to appear for the exams to obtain this. As for licensure, visit the official website of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS).

Step 5 – Get a Job

It is time you start looking for a job. Some common areas where this kind of work is needed are universities, care facilities, research institutions, blood banks, and other pharmaceutical institutions. You can prepare your resume with online help and get yourself all suited up on papers. Get in there. Showcase all your talent, tell them about the extra software knowledge you possess and get on board.

Step 6 – Get Polished and Stay on Track

This is pretty much it for the medical lab technician certification. The next thing is to brush up on your skills and get ready for the advanced world. Some of the skills you need to polish are laboratory testing, chemistry knowledge, microbiology, patient care, and not to forget data entry skills. You need to show your employer that you are more than just a lab technologist. Be one clinical lab scientist on which the world can rely.

Role and Responsibilities of Medical Lab Technologist 

Now that you have stepped into the world of healthcare, you need to be aware of what you should be doing, whether someone is there to narrate that to you or not. Here are the roles and duties that a medical laboratory technician school will teach you to perform.

  • Keep the Equipment Up-to-Date 

    Some things are already understood and go as long as you are working as MLT. The devices you work with, the software you use to analyze & report the results, the hardware that does the job, and the environment you sit, in need to be up-to-date with what’s needed at any point in time.

  • Examine the Specimen Properly 

    A load of blood and urine samples would be coming in daily. Conducting lab tech tests, preparing tissues for tests, tagging urine bottles with identification marks, and more such tasks are performed. You must ensure that each of these is adequately examined without a single margin for error.

  • Look for Punctuality 

    One of the major lab technician requirements is being punctual. Reports or results are bound to be delivered on a specific date and time. It is on you to ensure that these reach physicians beforehand. Being punctual allows you to maintain a proper flow where errors are minimized to a bare minimum.

  • Shake Hands with Adaptability 

    Technological advancements are always knocking on the doors of the health sector. One software update and can change the way you collect samples on the outside. What was a modern method back then is no longer in use now. Therefore, your responsibility as a med lab tech is to ensure you are toe-to-toe with the technology waiting to enter your premises.

  • Responsibility to Deliver

    A physician won’t be knocking on your door to know where the reports are kept. Your responsibility to perfectly organize, document, and deliver is bound to happen. A glance at the clinical lab technologist’s roles would let you know how delivering reports is ass essential as collecting samples in the first place.

Skills Required to Become a Medical Lab Technician 

Working in a medical laboratory requires some skills to always remain in your pocket since you never know which one comes in handy. Here are some of them you need to possess.

  • Communication Skills

    When people ask about what does a medical lab tech does? They do this; communicate with a dozen people within a couple of minutes since this will be happening more often. As an MLT, you have to come in contact with physicians, patients, report delivery agents, and many others. Hence, to have communication skills to narrate all the details is indeed important.

  • Critical Thinking Skills

    Since working in the laboratory will make you test various samples all at once, you need to make sure that the workload gets managed. Critical Thinking of a medical lab tech refers to him managing the load and maintaining fluency in operations right from day one. Decision-making will be complex; brush yourself up.

  • Scientific & Technological Skills

    As mentioned above, technological skills for medical laboratory tech are of utmost importance. There are a bunch of hardware connected line-to-line, dot-to-dot, and working on the reports offered by the precedent, there is the need for scientific and technological skills combined—science for studying biology and techniques for working on those biosamples.

  • Management Skills

    Supervisory Skills, to be specific. Since you’d be employing lab workers to work with you on processing samples, you’d be needing management skills as well. Lay a blueprint of what needs to be done during the day. Narrate that to your delegates, and some urgency comes up, manage that with ease as well.

  • Regular Maintenance Skills

    Lab technician courses tell you what you know what you must be doing. On the contrary, we’d be letting you know what you don’t. There are days when your machinery deviates, when it demands maintenance, and when it puts you in a situation when there’s no one but you to look after that. Hence, possess regular maintenance skills to know the issue arising with equipment.

Medical Lab Technician Certification

To begin with, you first need to complete a medical lab technician program accredited by the ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools) or NAACLS, as mentioned above. This would be containing topics such as immunology, laboratory operations, microbiology, chemistry, blood-related, urinalysis, and more.

Certification Renewal – As for your license renewal, you need to get it done every two years. A fee has to be paid alongside proper documentation of continuous education.

Licensing Requirement for Medical Lab Techs

After having an associate degree under your name or being completed your 60-semester hours of academic credit, you now require either of the following to gain full licensure:

  • An ASCP Certified Laboratory Assistant (CLA) credential
  • A 50-week U.S. Military Medical Laboratory Training Course
  • A three-year full-time laboratory experience that must include microbiology, hematology, fluids, and more that is already at your disposal above.
  • Or the best of all, an MLT program accredited by NAACLS or ABHES.

For International Applicants:

  • A two-year diploma in MLS with training.
  • A two-year diploma alongside a medical laboratory technician program.
  • A two-year diploma from an accredited institution with three-year acceptable working experience.

Quick Facts about Medical Lab Techs

For aspirants who only look at medical lab tech salaries, here are a few facts that might change how you look at this career path.

  • This is No More 9-6 Job 

    As much as you’d think you have to start a side hustle to attain a few extra bucks, you don’t need to. A lab technician’s work is not limited to these hours. With the current scenario, you are now required more than ever. Extra hours will gain you extra bucks.

  • There is High Earning Potential

    Since aged people contain less technological knowledge, young medical and clinical laboratory technicians are now the prime choice for employers. As long as you keep adding more feathers to your hat through certification, there is a need for professionals like you at a higher level.

  • Software Knowledge is a Must 

    To become successful and to have a sustainable career in this line, an MLT needs to upgrade his skills. And precisely, software skills. Since every task is on the machinery and the reports flow out, you need to ensure that you are processing it correctly.

  • Your Intriguing Hardware Engineering May Come in Handy 

    There is also a silver lining for young fellows who have always been intrigued about how the hardware worked. Becoming a lab technician would mean encountering hardware errors without notice. If indeed, a machine shows any error, you may have some expertise over it. Who knows, you can be paid extra money for it.

Medical Lab Technician Salary & Job Outlook

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a clinical lab technician’s salary specifically the median annual wage, was around $55k in May 2020. When compared to general health technologists, the numbers were around a dozen thousand more.

When you look at the hourly pay rate of medical lab technicians, Salary.com, as of Sep’27, 2021, shows that it falls right between $25 and $29. Experience is the key factor that does the job of fueling the revenue. Here are the best paying states for clinical laboratory technicians as per money.usnews.com.

States

Mean Salary

Alaska

$72,690

Connecticut

$67,900

Oregon

$64,880

New York

$65,560

Rhode Island

$68,000

Further, laboratory testing is at an all-time high in the current decade. What more is predicted and evident is that there will be more dependency on lab testing than ever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that around 26,000 openings are estimated to flow in each year. This is 11% more growth when compared to other occupations.

Is Medical Lab Technician & Medical Lab Scientist Same? 

Now that we have medical lab technician job description details, it’s time we look at one thing that confuses young aspirants the most. Often used interchangeably, the two terms talked about are different; different in duties and compensation.

In simple words, a Medical Lab Scientist is one step ahead of a Medical Lab Technician. You need to be a technician first and then obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree for the former. Besides this, you also need to have a two-year full-time experience acceptable by the institution you deem to enter.

Being a Medical Lab Scientist would mean having technicians working under you. Their guidance, training, supervision, and every other activity are monitored and reported to you. And yes, it adds benefits of compensation to your title.

Similar Careers

Well, the question doesn’t just confine to what does a lab technician does? It extends to what more can a lab technician do. There are four similar career paths that you can opt for if you wish to add more knowledge and, of course, make your pocket heavier.

  • Chemical Technician: Here, you are allowed to work on special equipment under the guidance of a chemical engineer. This has a median pay of around $50k, as per BLS.
  • Material Scientist: Under this module, you are designated to study substances at a molecular level. Understanding substances, their relationship, and more are contained in it. According to BLS, the median pay is around $80k.
  • Veterinary Technician: Working on animals is what you do in this. Causes of their illness, diagnosing them, and looking at their injuries are a part of it—median salary as per BLS data– around $40k.
  • Medical Sonographer (Ultrasound Tech): We have all heard of the ultrasound techies. These have an essential job. Using imaging equipment to form images of body parts, these professionals earn around $75k annually, as per Money U.S. News.
  • Phlebotomist: Being a med lab tech, you can also look for this career path. According to Salary.com, their Median pay is around $35k but is expected to grow as long as you add certification and experience.
  • Forensic Science Technician: Forensic Science Technicians have a complex job. Having all that DNA samples to test. However, the pay is also handsome. Median Pay, as reported by salary.com, ranges from $55k to $70k.
  • Dental Lab Technician: The work of a dental lab technician revolves around dentistry, its enhancement, and how technology can be used to treat ailments. Median Pay is around $70k, as per Salary.com.
  • Medical Assistant: Medical Assistants have a diverse role in this field. From operating simple machinery to managing small groups, it can be all done by you. The average medical assistant salary falls between $35k and $43k.
  • Surgical Technician: A surgical technologist, often known as a surgical tech, scrub tech, or OR technician, is an occupational health worker who helps prepare the operating room (OR) prior to surgery. As per BLS 2020 reports, Surgical Techs are paid around $50K annually.

Resourceful Links 

medical assistant

Written by : Casey Gardner

Casey Gardner is both a healthcare support professional and an accomplished content creator.  She has been working as a certified health care professional with marketable skills as a physician assistant,  and a qualified medical assistant for last two decades. She has dedicated her nursing career to produce over hundreds of content pieces since 2001, and her work has been published both online as well as offline.

SOURCES

medical assistant information sources