Trade Schools with Medical Laboratory Technician Programs
Medical laboratory technicians are an essential part of the healthcare workforce. These people work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other businesses that study the human body and provide medical treatment. These staffers help doctors and their patients gain insight about the smallest particles in their bodies with the help of powerful technology and scientific knowledge.
A lab tech collects, prepares and tests samples of biological matter to help doctors diagnose and treat patients. A technician can determine a blood cell count, look for evidence of diseases and infections, and check for the presence of drugs. All of the information they gather helps people get the treatment they need.
What is a Medical Laboratory Technician?
Lab techs don’t often work directly with patients. However, they play a crucial role in their care. These workers test samples of bodily fluids and tissues to help physicians discover the kind of treatment a person may need. Technicians prepare the specimens, use machines to analyze them, compile results, and share the information with doctors.
What are Medical Laboratory Technicians' Job Duties?
Medical laboratory technician jobs involve a number of duties. Techs can be responsible for almost every step in the process of collecting and testing a sample. A few responsibilities typically assigned to techs are:
- Preparing samples for tests done with high-tech machinery
- Setting up, operating and sanitizing the testing instruments
- Using the equipment to test and examine specimens
- Monitoring tests for accuracy
- Analyzing the chemical and biological makeup of samples
- Assembling accurate records and charts of test results to deliver to doctors
Some lab techs may have to interact with patients to collect specimens. Medical laboratory technician degrees usually certify techs to take blood and tissue samples. Depending on where they work, a technician may or may not have to perform this duty.
What Types of Skills Should Medical Laboratory Technicians Have?
In medical laboratory technician schools, aspiring lab techs learn the basics of chemistry and microbiology. This helps them to understand the science behind the work they do. That knowledge can improve their job performance. A passion for health studies also makes the work enjoyable and fulfilling.
Technology literacy is also a meaningful skill for lab techs to have. Familiarity with computers can aid them in learning to operate and maintain the machines they use each day. Good problem-solving tactics also help them tackle any technical difficulties and resolve them quickly. Finally, attention to detail helps technicians ensure they complete and record tests accurately.
Of course, people skills are also valuable in medical laboratory technician jobs. A knack for communication and the ability to work well with a team helps these specialists coordinate with fellow techs, nurses and doctors. That cooperation can help create a functional and happy work environment. Sympathy and compassion also make patient interactions more pleasant.
What Is a Medical Laboratory Technician's Work Environment Like?
Laboratories where technicians work must be as sanitary as possible. That’s why keeping workspaces clean is an essential job duty of medical laboratory technicians. They have to be especially careful to cleanse machines, surfaces and other instruments after use. Techs must also be sure to store and seal samples appropriately.
It’s also crucial for workers to protect themselves from bacteria and other harmful germs. Usually, technicians must wear personal protective equipment. Gloves, masks, gowns and goggles can ward off any germs they come in contact with while working.
What Kinds of Equipment Do Medical Laboratory Technicians Use?
Medical laboratory technicians use lots of delicate lab equipment in their everyday work. They examine specimens with microscopes, cell counters and similar tools. Employees also use computerized machines that can run multiple tests at one time.
Maintaining the instruments they use is another routine duty that lab technicians perform. They have to be careful to prep samples appropriately so as not to cause any damage. Techs must also troubleshoot when necessary to keep the machines up and running. Finally, they’re responsible for cleaning the equipment to promote proper functionality and sanitation.
What Are the Requirements for a Medical Laboratory Technician Job?
Typically, lab techs must earn an associate’s degree in clinical laboratory science or a similar field. Many trade schools and community colleges offer medical laboratory technician degrees. To receive one, students will take classes in subjects such as medical terminology, phlebotomy, chemistry, microbiology and immunology.
In addition to earning a medical laboratory technician degree, some states also require techs to pass a state board examination. They test candidates on information and skills that future specialists must know to be qualified for medical laboratory technician jobs. Currently, 11 states in the U.S. ask employees to earn an official license to work in a lab.
Where Do Medical Laboratory Technicians Work?
- Hospitals and clinics
- Physicians' offices
- Private laboratories
- Public health organizations
- Government agencies
- Researchers and medical product developers
What Are Medical Laboratory Technicians' Work Schedules Like?
Patients are always in need of care, and medical emergencies happen at all hours. That’s why many healthcare businesses hire lab techs to be on site during all times of day. Laboratory technicians can work day, evening or night shifts. Their work calendars may include weekends and holidays, too. Small businesses might ask employees to work rotating shifts that change each week.
What Is the Outlook for
Medical Laboratory Technician Jobs?
Pay and Benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for lab techs in America is about $20.00 per hour. The mean annual salary is roughly $41,000. Many employers also offer benefits. Some common offerings are:
- Medical insurance
- Dental and vision insurance
- Life insurance
- 401K plans
- Paid time off
The Future of Lab Tech Jobs
Experts are expecting growth in the job market for medical laboratory technicians during the next several years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of lab techs will grow 11 percent between 2018 and 2028. That’s more than double the estimated increase for all other jobs in the United States.
The high demand for technicians may be a result of the growing population of older folks in the U.S. As they age, these people require more medical attention. The healthcare industry must then adjust to the increased need. In turn, providers will need to hire extra personnel to test for conditions that commonly affect the elderly.
Prenatal testing is also on the rise. More parents are opting to monitor the health of their unborn children through new laboratory tests. In response to the trend, physicians will need a greater amount of lab techs to help them amass the information patients are looking for.
Where Can Medical Laboratory Technicians Find Work?
Most lab techs work in hospitals to help treat patients receiving emergency care, planned surgical operations and everything in between. The next largest employers of technicians are medical and diagnostic laboratories. Physicians’ offices rank third, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many healthcare professionals work in population-dense areas to care for the many people who live there. The highest number of lab tech jobs are in the most populated places in the country. The top three states with the most technicians are California, Texas and New York. The cities with the most employed techs are Los Angeles, New York City, Baltimore and Chicago.
How Do Medical Laboratory Technicians Grow Their Careers?
To advance in their medical laboratory technician career, a lab tech to acquire additional certification He or she can become a certified laboratory professional through the American Society for Clinical Pathology or American Medical Technologists.
Technicians usually need only a two-year associate’s degree. But with a few more semesters of schooling, techs can earn bachelor’s degrees and work as medical laboratory technologists. These employees perform many of the same tasks. But those with higher education can oversee a staff of techs and administer more in-depth tests and analyses.
What Are Alternate Careers for Medical Laboratory Technicians?
A former lab tech’s familiarity with science and healthcare is an easily transferrable skill that can apply to lots of other jobs. Some of these options may require job seekers to enroll in further schooling. However, each incorporates skills that laboratory technicians use regularly.
- Animal health technologist – Lab techs seeking new careers can make the switch from helping humans to healing animals. These staffers can assist veterinarians in caring for pets, or aid researchers who study them.
- Health information technician – Tech savviness and a medical background can make a laboratory technician well-qualified to manage patient records. These employees use computers to collect, organize, store and protect others’ personal health histories.
- Pathologist’s assistant – With further training, a lab tech could work as an assistant to a doctor who specializes in examining body tissues. These helpers assist during autopsies and lend a hand while physicians review surgical specimens.
- Technical sales specialist – Laboratory technicians may work for companies selling medical equipment to healthcare providers. Their knowledge of medicine and the role of technology would be a valuable asset in one of these positions.