What’s the Difference Between a Healthcare Technician & Healthcare Technologist?

Those who wish to work in the healthcare field have many options to choose from, especially when it comes to becoming a medical technician or technologist. But what exactly are these roles and how are they different? The answers can get a bit tricky. Read on to learn about the types of careers you can pursue and what this terminology really means.

What Is a Medical Technician?

In general, a medical technician serves in a more entry-level role and might perform tasks that include running routine tests, inputting patient data, setting up equipment, preparing patients for procedures, and administering medication. In many of these roles, an associate’s degree or vocational training is all you need to get started.

What Is a Medical Technologist?

Though medical technologists will likely perform many of the same tasks as technicians, their duties can be more in-depth. These often involve conducting more complex tests, analyzing samples, discussing results with physicians, and supervising or training technicians. People working in these roles often need to hold a bachelor’s degree and some sort of licensing or certification.

So, What’s the Difference Between Technicians & Technologists?

The answer really comes down to the specific specialty of the role. Under the umbrella of medical technology, there are many careers that use different terminology. In some areas, healthcare technicians and technologists are distinguished by education level and job responsibilities. Other fields use these titles interchangeably, while others strictly use one title or the other.

Types of Medical Technicians & Technologists

EMT, laboratory technician, surgical technologist—these are just a few of the many roles within the broader field of medical tech. While this list is by no means extensive, you can read more about the types of jobs that are available below.

Cardiovascular technician or technologist

Cardiovascular technicians and technologists both work to assist physicians in diagnosing and treating problems related to the heart and blood vessels. In many cases, these job titles are interchangeable. When first starting in the field, you’ll focus mostly on running non-invasive tests such as EKGs, monitoring imaging equipment, and preparing patient reports for your physician. As you get more experience in the field, you might perform more advanced duties, such as helping a surgeon implant a pacemaker or defibrillator.

Salary information and job outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cardiovascular technologists and technicians earn an average of $57,250 per year. From 2016 to 2026, job opportunities are expected to grow by 17%, more than 2 times the national average for all occupations.

Education requirements

Cardiovascular techs typically need at least a 2-year associate’s degree, though some employers might require a bachelor’s. Others may only require that you graduate from a certificate program and undergo on-the-job training. It’s also common for students to specialize in a certain area of concentration, like sonography, electrophysiology, and invasive cardiovascular technology.

No matter what type of education you choose, should look for schools that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Certification and other requirements

Depending on your state, you may need to have a license through the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT). You should research your individual state’s requirements, as they’re likely to dictate the level of education that you need. Certification may or may not be necessary but is often preferred by employers. You can pursue a number of different certifications through organizations like Cardiovascular Credentialing International and the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.


Dental technician

Instead of interacting directly with patients, a dental technician works behind the scenes, constructing appliances such as bridges, crowns, and dentures. They can work in commercial dental labs, private practices, dental schools, hospitals, and for manufacturers and suppliers.

Salary information and job outlook

According to the BLS, dental technicians earn an average annual salary of $41,990. They, along with other medical appliance technicians, can expect to see job opportunities grow by 13% through 2026.

Education requirements

Some dental technician roles require nothing more than a high school diploma or GED and will provide new hires with on-the-job training. However, in a growing field, further education can make you a much more competitive candidate. Many opt to attend a 2-year dental technology program that leads to a certificate or associate’s degree.

Certification and other requirements

While there’s no license required for dental technicians, optional certification can show potential employers that you’re skilled in and dedicated to your field. You can become a certified dental technician by passing 3 exams administered by the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. Sitting for the exams requires completing an ADA-accredited dental program and having 2 years of professional experience, or 5 years if you’ve been trained on the job.


EMT or paramedic

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics provide on-site assistance to those who have suddenly become ill or injured in an accident. Upon arriving at the scene, they assess the condition of the patient, provide any treatment that they can in the moment, and, if needed, transport the patient to a medical facility for more treatment.

There are 3 levels for those who want to work in the field. These include EMT-basic, EMT-intermediate, and paramedic. The first is trained to assess conditions and manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma experiences. The second has similar duties while also performing procedures such as administering IV fluids and certain medication. A paramedic can provide the most advanced care, including running EKGs and other complex equipment and monitors.

Salary information and job outlook

EMTs and paramedics earn an average annual salary of $36,700, according to the BLS, though this will vary depending on the level that you’re working in the field. Job opportunities are expected to grow by 15% through 2026.

Education requirements

The amount of EMT training you need depends on the level at which you want to work. EMT-basic and EMT-intermediate candidates typically complete a non-degree program within 1–2 years, with instruction requiring around 150 and 400 hours respectively. Paramedics often need to acquire at least an associate’s degree and complete around 1,200 hours of training.

Certification and other requirements

Regardless of level, all EMTs and paramedics must be licensed in their state. Requirements vary, but in most states, you’ll need to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam. You’ll also need to hold your certification in CPR.


Histotechnician or histotechnologist

Working as part of a laboratory team, histotechnicians and technologists prepare tissues samples from humans, animals, and plants. This involves numerous steps that may include trimming, staining, embedding, and more. Then, alongside a pathologist, these professionals analyze their samples to diagnose abnormalities or disease. The results can help develop new treatments, aid in solving crimes, or improve upon food and other everyday products.

The titles of the 2 roles may be interchangeable, though in general, histotechnologists perform more complex procedures and analysis. They might also work as a supervisor in a lab or direct programs at a school for histotechnology.

Salary information and job outlook

According to the BLS, histotechnicians and technologists—roles that fall under the broader umbrella of medical and clinical laboratory techs—can earn a median annual salary of $51,770. Through 2026, jobs for all medical and clinical lab techs are projected to grow by 13%.

Education requirements

Histotechnicians typically require at least an associate’s degree, while technologists require a bachelor’s. No matter which route you choose, your program should be accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Your program may also include an internship or other fieldwork.

Certification and other requirements

While there’s no national licensing requirement, you might be required to gain licensure through your state’s society of histology. Certification requirements also vary but gaining these credentials is typically highly recommended. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers 2 certifications—the HT for histotechnicians and the HTL for histotechnologists.


Nuclear medicine technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs to patients prior to performing imaging tests for issues that affect the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, bones, and more. These tests are then used by doctors to diagnose disease and determine treatment plans.

Salary information and job outlook

The BLS lists the average annual salary for nuclear medicine technologists as $77,660. Job growth is projected at 10% between 2016 and 2026.

Education requirements

Professionals in these roles must hold at least an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology, though many employers require a bachelor’s. The program you choose should be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology (JRCNMT). A qualified program will also require clinical experience under the supervision of a certified technologist or other physician who specializes in nuclear medicine.

Certification and other requirements

Roughly half of U.S. states require these technologists to become licensed through the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging (SNMMI). Most of the professionals in the field go on to get certification, and many employers will only hire candidates who hold these credentials. You can gain certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).

In addition to general certification, there are also options for credentials in specialties that involve particular procedures or equipment. The NMTCB offers specialty certification in computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear cardiology (NCT), and radiation safety.


Pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of a pharmacist to prepare prescription medication for their customers. They set up and maintain patient records, accurately measure medication, package and label prescriptions, and manage the inventory of the pharmacy. They can work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, or drug and grocery stores.

Salary information and job outlook

According to the BLS, pharmacy techs earn an average salary of $33,060 per year. Through 2026, job opportunities are expected to grow by roughly 12%.

Education requirements

The amount of education needed to become a pharmacy technician varies depending on your state. You may only need a high school diploma and on-the-job training, though you might need postsecondary education from a community college or vocational school. Most of these programs can be completed within a year and end with earning a certificate, while others lead to an associate’s degree. If you do choose to pursue formal training, your program should be accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Certification and other requirements

Some states and employers require pharmacy techs to become certified. There are 2 certifying boards that offer these credentials—the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association. The former requires passing an exam, while the latter requires the completion of a training program and 1 year of experience.


Phlebotomy technician

Phlebotomy technicians—often just known as phlebotomistsdraw blood from patients and prepare those samples for testing, transfusion, blood donation, or research. They can work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, diagnostic labs, or donation centers.

Salary information and job outlook

The BLS lists the average annual salary for phlebotomists to be $34,710. Through 2026, job opportunities are expected to increase by 25%, nearly 4 times that of the national average for all occupations.

Education requirements

While you may be able to enter the field of phlebotomy with a high school diploma and on-the-job training, securing a position typically requires a certificate from a non-degree program through a community college or vocational school. Phlebotomy training can usually be completed in less than a year with both classroom instruction and clinical experience.

Certification and other requirements

Few states require phlebotomists to be certified, however most employers prefer this. You can gain certification through several organizations, including the National Phlebotomy Association, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Medical Technologists, the National Healthcareer Association, and the National Center for Competency Testing.


Radiologic technologist

Radiologic technologists run imaging tests, such as X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs, to help diagnose disease and determine treatment plans for their patients. Though they may perform some of the same duties as a nuclear medicine technologist, a radiologic tech focuses on other organ imaging techniques while a nuclear med tech puts a greater emphasis on administering drugs prior to these tests. You might hear this role referred to a radiology technician, however this is far less common than technologist.

Salary information and job outlook

According to the BLS, radiology technologists earn an average annual salary of $60,320. Job opportunities are expected to grow by 13% through 2026.

Education requirements

In most cases, those working in radiology tech need to hold at least an associate’s degree from a program accredited by the JRCNMT. Some programs also lead to a bachelor’s degree. If you wish you specialize in MRIs specifically, you should pursue a program accredited by the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists.

Certification and other requirements

About 75% of states have licensing laws that cover radiologic technology, though many employers require licensing even if your state does not. You can check your individual state’s requirements through the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. Certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists is highly preferred and sometimes required.


Surgical technologist

Surgical technologists work under the supervision of surgeons and RNs, assisting before, during, and after surgery. Tasks often include transporting patients, setting up the operating room, maintaining sterile conditions, and passing instruments and other supplies to the doctors and nurses during surgery.

Salary information and job outlook

The average salary for a surgical tech is $48,060 per year, according to the BLS. From 2016 to 2026, job opportunities are projected to increase by roughly 12%.

Education requirements

Expect to need at least a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Courses may last anywhere from a few months to up to 2 years.

Certification and other requirements

Few states have regulations in place regarding surgical technologists, however gaining certification can be very beneficial to securing a job. You can pass a test to become a certified surgical technologist through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, or Tech in Surgery-Certified through the National Center for Competency Testing. Many jobs will also require you to have credentials in basic life support and/or CPR.


Veterinary technician or technologist

Veterinary technicians and technologists assist in the care of sick or injured animals under the supervision of a licensed vet. These roles perform duties that include monitoring animal behavior, conducting lab tests, taking X-rays, preparing animals for surgery, and administering medication or vaccinations. While these job titles may be interchangeable, it’s more common to find technicians working in private clinics directly with the animals, running tests, and discussing issues with the pet owners. Vet technologists, on the other hand, may work more in a research- and lab-related role, preparing samples, analyzing tests, and developing treatment plans.

Salary information and job outlook

According to the BLS, vet technicians and technologists earn an average annual salary of $34,710. Job opportunities are expected to grow by 20% through 2026, nearly 3 times that of the national average for all occupations.

Education requirements

In general, vet technicians must hold a 2-year associate’s degree while vet technologists need a 4-year bachelor’s. During your studies, you can also opt to tailor your education toward a certain specialization. This may include focused areas such as animal dentistry, avian medicine, exotic animals, internal medicine, zookeeping, and more.

Certification and other requirements

Typically, both technologists and technicians need to become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the requirements of their state. You can check these requirements through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). Gaining your certification or license often begins by passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam given by the AAVSB.

Ready to Get Started?

Within the field of medical technology, there are countless opportunities that can help you meet your personal goals. Whether you want to work with patients in a hospital, behind the scenes in a lab, or out in the field as an EMT, your options for a career are nearly endless.

But as with all roles in the medical industry, starting a career begins with the right education. If you’re ready to pursue a fulfilling job as a medical tech, use the Find Schools button to research programs online and in your area.