What you'll do: As a medical and clinical laboratory technologist or technician, you'll work behind-the-scenes, processing laboratory tests that doctors count on to correctly diagnose and treat patients. You'll identify abnormal blood cells, detect cancerous tumors, perform cultures and identify bacteria and viruses, and assure safe transfusion of blood products. Additionally, you'll monitor testing quality and support staff in general lab operations.
Where you'll work: Hospitals, clinics, private laboratories, public health organizations, research and development departments of pharmaceutical companies.
Degree you'll need to practice: Associate's degree or postsecondary certificate for technicians; bachelor's degree for technologists.
Median annual salary: $47,820*
Medical technologists act as supervisors for medical technicians, who perform many of the same duties in a physician's office or lab. On the job, you'll collect and analyze body fluids, tissue and other substances to determine normal or abnormal findings. You'll operate sophisticated equipment and instruments to identify the results.
Both technicians and technologists perform tests and procedures that physicians or other healthcare personnel order. However, technologists perform more complex tests and laboratory procedures than technicians do. In these roles, you'll work side by side in doctor's offices, clinics, diagnostic labs and research environments.
Medical laboratory technicians often wear eye shields, gloves and other gear to prevent the spread of infection and to protect themselves from solutions and reagents used in testing.
If you enjoy working as a medical or clinical lab technician, and would like to advance and gain more responsibility and autonomy in the field, you can move into a technologist position. There, you can specialize in a variety of areas such as:
- Blood bank technology (immunohematology)
- Clinical chemistry technology
- Molecular biology
Clinical laboratory technologists, also called clinical laboratory scientists, must pass a national certification examination given by one of these professional agencies:
- American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
- National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA)
- American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB)
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; 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.