Learn About Becoming a Cytotechnologist

Find out what a cytotechnologist is, the training you'll need and careers you can .

Cytology is the study of cells. As a cytotechnologist, you'll prepare and examine body cells for study under the microscope in order to detect abnormalities that may be important in the early diagnosis of cancer and other diseases.

Cytotechnologist Job Description

Under the supervision of a pathologist, a cytotechnologist is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Prepare slides containing sample cells for examination under a microscope
  • Evaluate cells for the presence of cancer, precancerous changes or infections
  • Provide an interpretation of all patient samples to the pathologist

In addition, there are opportunities for cytotechnologists in teaching and research.

Cytotechnologist Education and Training

Cytotechnologists must have a bachelor's degree from a program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

In addition to cytochemistry and cytophysiology, you'll learn processing techniques, preparation of specimens and microcopy. You'll likely study the following subjects:
 

Anatomy Endocrinology
Biology Histology
Chemistry Immunology
Embryology Physiology

Cytotechnologist Certification

Regulations vary from state to state, but certification is highly recommended because most employers require it. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers national certification and testing which earns cytotechnologists the title of Certified Cytotechnologist (CT).

Work Environment and Salary

As a cytotechnologist, you might work in any of the following settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Universities
  • Commercial laboratories
  • Public health organizations

According to Salary.com's January 2014 salary survey, the median national annual salary for a cytotechnologist is $67,358. 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.