Health Care Technician vs. Health Care Technologist: What's the Difference?

Health care technicians and health care technologists often have overlapping job duties. In many labs everybody does everything, as long as they're qualified to do lab work. The slang term "lab tech" is often used for both medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians. However, there are some differences as far as education and job duties.

Here's a breakdown of some differences between the two fields:

Profession Health Care Technician Health Care Technologist
Job Duties Health care technicians prepare specimens, operate automated analyzers and perform manual tests with detailed instructions. Technologists problem solve, conduct data interpretation, establish and monitor programs, type and cross match blood samples and act as project managers.
Education Technicians must complete a 2-year associate's degree program that stresses practical skills. Those with a degree in another field may often take a 1-year certificate program to meet the requirements for the job. Health care technologists are specialists with a 4-year bachelor's degree in medical technology or life sciences.
Licensing/Certification Some states may require certification in order to earn licensure, which consists of earning a degree in order to sit for the examination. Technologists are often required to be licensed, depending upon the state in which they practice. Earning licensure requires a bachelor's degree and for the technologist to pass an examination and take continuing education courses.
Pay  Median annual salary: $37,240  Median annual salary: $57,580
Job Growth 30 percent increase through 2022 14 percent increase through 2022
Next step? Technicians can continue their education and earn a bachelor's degree to move into the technologist role.

Many health care technologists move into more advanced levels of their profession as their careers progress

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data published March 27, 2012; Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.