Why You Should Get Your Phlebotomy Certification
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 and getting harder all the time as most employers' preference is to hire those who have earned a credential.
California, Nevada, Washington 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 five 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
- National Healthcareer Association
- National Center for Competency Testing
Below are a few details about how to qualify for each:
American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
In order to take your Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) exam, the ASCP offers seven routes to eligibility:
- High school graduation or equivalent and completion of a NAACLS-approved phlebotomy program within the last five years
- High school graduation and completion of an accepted two-part phlebotomy program that consists of 40 hours of classroom training and 100 hours of clinical training in an accredited lab with a minimum of 100 successful venipunctures and skin punctures
- High school graduation and the completion of one year of accepted full time work experience in an accredited lab within the past five years
- High school graduation and completion of RN, LPN or other accepted allied health profession education that includes phlebotomy training with a minimum of 100 successful unaided blood collections
- MT, MLS or MLT certification
- DPT certification and a minimum of 100 successful unaided non-donor blood collections within the past five years
- High school graduation and completion of a phlebotomy program approved by the California Department of Public Health within the past five years
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:
- One full year as a part-time phlebotomist or six months as a full-time phlebotomist, or;
- A letter from a health care supervisor attesting that part of your job is procuring blood specimens regularly. This must be submitted with your membership application on facility letterhead, or;
- Signature of supervisor/instructor on application attesting to the above
- Successful completion of an accredited phlebotomy training program
- At least 100 documented successful venipunctures
- Five documented skin punctures
- A current ASPT membership
National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
Similarly, you need to have one year of prior experience as a phlebotomist, and be currently employed. Clinical experience is not acceptable and you'll need a letter verifying length of employment from your supervisor. You also need to have attended a phlebotomy training program to qualify for certification through the 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 and 16 continuing education units
National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
The National Healthcareer Association offers the Phlebotomy Technician Certification (CPT), which allows technicians to draw blood and work with patients to understand forthcoming procedures. You'll be able to check glucose levels, prepare specimens for testing and maintain medical equipment. The NHA Phlebotomy Technician Certification exam fee is $105.
To be eligible for the NHA exam you'll need to have successfully completed a training program within the past five years. You'll need to have successfully performed the following procedures:
- 30 venipunctures and 10 capillary sticks on live humans
- Have a high school diploma or GED
National Center for Competency (NCCT) Certification
The NCCT offers three ways to earn your certification:
- Be a current student in a phlebotomy technician program from an NCCT-authorized school or have graduated from an NCCT-authorized school within the past five years
- Have completed one year of verifiable full-time employment as a phlebotomy technician practitioner within the past five years
- Have completed your phlebotomy technician training or the equivalent while performing service in the U.S. military within the past five years
Before you can take the test, you'll need:
- A high school diploma or GED
- A phlebotomy technician diploma or certificate of completion—or an official transcript with graduation date—from an approved program
- Completion of the NCCT Phlebotomy Technician Certification Critical Skill Competency form
In addition to the five phlebotomist certification agencies listed above, you can also receive your phlebotomist license from The American Medical Technologists, a non-profit certification agency.
To be eligible for the American Medical Technologists exam, which grants the designation of Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT), 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.
You must also have completed 1,040 hours of accepted work experience as a phlebotomy tech within the last three years. Types of experience and procedures that are acceptable within this timeframe are as follows:
|Speciment processing||Communication skills|
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. There are different requirements for applicants with no phlebotomy experience, applicants with less than 1,040 hours of on-the-job phlebotomy experience, and applicants with 1,040 or more hours of on-the-job phlebotomy experience in the last five years.
- 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:
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 $135 fee and fulfill one of seven routes to be eligible to pass the certification exam, based on education or work experience. Meanwhile, American Medical Technologists give applicants two routes to choose from and charge a $120 application fee.
Phlebotomist Certification Online
Although most certifying agencies offer computer-based testing, there are no phlebotomist certification online options. Often you may apply to take your exam online, but 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- to-two semesters, or 4 to 8 months, depending upon your school—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:
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.
What's the Job Growth and Salary for Certified Phlebotomist Technicians?
The good news is certified phlebotomy technicians can expect a much faster than average job growth through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), largely because doctors and other healthcare professionals will require bloodwork for analysis and diagnosis. This will increase the need for qualified phlebotomists, and that means certified technicians.
Salaries will range from $22,150 to over $43,800 says the BLS, with the median annual salary resting at $30,670.
Certified phlebotomy technicians may choose to go on and earn a degree in medical laboratory technology or become a nurse or specialized medical technician. Your options are wide open once you've taken the first steps toward getting certified. Why not get started today?