Why You Should Get Certified
Since you don't have to have your phlebotomy certification in order to start your career as a phlebotomist, why should you get certified?
Because without your phlebotomist certification, getting a job is nearly impossible.
California, Nevada and Louisiana may be the only states that require "all persons who are not doctors, nurses or clinical lab scientists" to be licensed in order to draw blood. But phlebotomy certification tells your prospective employer that you have met the requirements laid down by respected certifying bodies in your field. These certifying bodies maintain standards for education and experience.
Where to Get Phlebotomy Certification
If you're interested in earning your certification, there are three widely-recognized certifying bodies through which you can become a certified phlebotomist:
- American Society for Clinical Pathology
- American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
- National Phlebotomy Association
Below are a few details about how to qualify for each:
American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
For people without past experience, ASCP requires:
- High school graduation or equivalent
- Completion of 40 classroom hours
- 120 hands-on training hours
- 100 successful, unaided blood collections
Your classroom training must include anatomy, physiology or the circulatory system, specimen collection, specimen processing and handling, and laboratory operations. See the phlebotomy courses page for other courses that might be included in your training.
Another thing to note is that the ASCP specifies that the laboratory at which you intern must be regulated according to the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment of 1988. This act was put into effect by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to ensure quality laboratory testing across the United States.
The American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT)
For phlebotomy technicians with no prior work experience the requirements for certification through ASPT are:
- Completion of an accredited phlebotomy training program
- 100 successful documented venipunctures
- 5 successful skin punctures
- A current membership to APT
National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
Similarly, unless you have one year of prior experience as a phlebotomist, you need to attend a phlebotomy training program to qualify for certification through NPA.
The program you attend must include:
- Venipuncture techniques
- A hands-on clinical practical internship
- 160 classroom hours in addition to the clinical practical internship
In addition to the three phlebotomist certification agencies listed above, you can also receive your phlebotomist license from:
- The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
- The American Medical Technologists (AMT)
NCCT offers three ways to earn your license, but if you're just starting out, you'll need to take the phlebotomy exam after graduating from an NCCT-authorized school. Before you can take the test, you'll need:
- A high school diploma or GED
- A phlebotomy technician certificate from an approved program
- Completion of NCCT Phlebotomy Technician Certification Critical Skill Competency form
To be eligible for the American Medical Technologists exam, applicants must graduate from a phlebotomy program that includes a minimum of 120 didactic clock hours. The program should also be approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
To find out if you're eligible to take the AMT exam, the first step is to submit an application online and provide transcripts and other requested documentation. If you're interested in obtaining AMT certification, ensure your phlebotomy program allows you to complete a minimum of 50 successful venipunctures and 10 successful skin punctures from human sources.
Phlebotomy License Renewal
Part of being professionally certified means maintaining your credentials.
AMT requires annual renewal; you'll pay a fee and need to comply with their Certification Continuation Program. This means you'll need to complete a qualifying activity, such as continuing education.
The National Phlebotomy Association and other certifying organizations have similar requirements.
Phlebotomist Certification Requirements
While not all states have phlebotomist certification requirements, all 50 jurisdictions have laws surrounding what a phlebotomist is permitted to do on the job. Check with your state boards for laws and regulations as they differ by location.
For instance, California, which requires its phlebotomists to be licensed, permit three types of phlebotomy certification, each with differing responsibilities.
- Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT) is permitted to do skin puncture blood collection only.
- Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I) can do venipuncture and skin punctures
- Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II) is permitted to do venipuncture, arterial puncture and skin punctures.
Louisiana, on the other hand, doesn't differentiate between types of technicians, but does require all phlebotomists to be licensed.
Phlebotomist Certification: What Are My Options?
With so many certification organizations, how do you determine which one is right for your career path? Consider these factors to help you decide:
- Which organizations are approved by your state? Your state boards can provide you with an updated list of certifying bodies.
- Which certifying bodies are preferred by employers in your area?
- Is it a nationally-recognized organization with a good reputation?
You should also consider criteria such as application fees and eligibility requirements.
For instance, the American Society for Clinical Pathology requires applicants to pay a $125 fee and fulfill one of six requirements, based on education or work experience. Meanwhile, American Medical Technologists give applicants two routes to choose from and charge a $100 application fee.
Phlebotomist Certification Online
Although most certifying agencies offer computer-based testing, there are no phlebotomist certification online options. Applicants are required to appear at a testing site, which is either their school or another location, and complete the exam.
Many organizations use computer-adaptive testing which calibrates questions based on a test-taker's response. If they answer a question correctly, the subsequent question is more difficult.
In addition to the writing portion of the test, some agencies, such as the National Phlebotomy Association, include a practical section—another reason you need to be there in person.
Most phlebotomist certificate programs aren't taught online either. While they do exist, they're not as comprehensive as a course you'd take on-campus. Since phlebotomy requires you to work directly with patients, your best learning experience will be in a classroom and lab.
Phlebotomist Certification Test
A phlebotomist certification test will measure your knowledge and skills in a number of subject areas. Since phlebotomists need to be vigilant about safety and infection control, you can expect to see questions about:
- Responding to workplace hazards
- How to prevent hematomas and nerve damage
- How to dispose of equipment properly
- Equipment sterilization
Phlebotomists interact with all types of patients, from infants to the elderly. Sometimes these situations can be stressful, especially if a patient passes out, becomes ill or is afraid of needles. The phlebotomist certification exam will test your skills in these types of scenarios. You will be asked to answer questions about precautions you'll take for patients with special needs and the ways you'll communicate with verbal and non-verbal patients.
A phlebotomist certification test takes between two and two-and-a-half hours to complete, depending on the testing organization. Exams are typically computer-based, but some organizations will permit applicants to use a paper exam, however, processing costs could be higher.
Even if you've just completed a phlebotomy program and the material is fresh in your mind, it's still a good idea to utilize study materials provided by the certification organization. Utilizing practice tests and resource guides can better prepare you for exam day. It'll give you a sense of how questions are asked and how the exam is formatted.
A phlebotomist is a valuable part of a medical team because they help lessen the workload for nurses and doctors. While the job duties are straightforward—drawing specimens for testing—a phlebotomist is a crucial player in helping patients receive an accurate and timely diagnosis.
As more of the population utilizes medical care, the need for phlebotomists is expected to grow. However, before you can earn any type of certification, you'll need phlebotomist training.
Phlebotomist school is short in length—one semester—and prepares you to work with patients and in different settings such as labs, blood banks and hospitals.
You'll learn about new diagnostic methods and the latest lab technology. Classes will also cover safety topics and basic science.
Phlebotomist training courses include:
- Medical terminology
- First aid
- Anatomy and physiology
- Phlebotomy lab skills
- Diseases of the human body
Some programs will also incorporate certification exam preparation into the curriculum.
Students also participate in hands-on training either in the classroom or with an externship. If your program includes an externship, you'll be assigned to a clinical site in your local community.
If you're interested in a medical laboratory career, phlebotomist training is a great place to start. Because of the short program length, you can enter the workforce sooner and gain valuable experience. Many phlebotomists go on to earn a degree in medical laboratory technology.