How to Become a Medical Technician: Degrees & Certificates
Medical technician degree programs cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Find out what you’ll learn.
What degree levels are available?
Medical lab techs, surgical techs and other types of med techs, are required to hold an associate’s degree related to the field. Shorter certificate programs are offered by dozens of community colleges and vocational schools, but these usually require past health care training or experience.
However, some only require a high school diploma to enroll.
The certificate programs can solidify your expertise in a certain area of the med tech field, such as phlebotomy. They can also get you into the workplace faster than a two-year associate’s degree.
Certificate and Diploma Programs
Certificate and diploma programs can last from a few weeks to a year. Courses are crafted in a way that students focus only on the medical technician career and building their skill set in a particular area.
Example of Phlebotomy Certificate Courses
Certificate and diploma programs cover a lot of territory in a short amount of time. As an example of course work for a phlebotomy program, Bunker Hill Community College offers the following classes:
- Phlebotomy Theory/Lab
- Communication Skills for Health Care
- Medical Terminology
- Practicum seminar
In addition to these main courses, you’ll participate in a practicum and take basic computer or office administration courses.
Associate’s Degree Programs
An associate’s degree program, which takes about two years, will cover not only the medical technician specialization, but also provide a liberal arts education. So why choose a longer program over the certificate option?
If you think you may return to school at a later date to earn a bachelor’s degree to become a medical laboratory technologist, having the liberal arts background will save you time and money when you enroll in the undergraduate program.
As an example of course work, Springfield Technical Community College’s medical laboratory technician associate’s degree program includes:
- Introduction to Clinical Laboratory Sciences
- Basics of Anatomy and Physiology
- Urinalysis and Body Fluids
- Medical Microbiology
- Hematology and Coagulation
- Clinical Chemistry
General education requirements, like English composition, are also included in the program along with a clinical practicum and lab seminar.
What will I learn in my courses?
The courses in a med tech program run the gamut from teaching communication skills to how to sterilize and safely use equipment. If you attend a certificate program to be a specific type of technician, your courses will include general med tech topics, but will spend more time on the specialization you’ve chosen. For example, a surgical tech program will cover things like pharmacology whereas a phlebotomy program will spend more time on blood physiology and skin puncture techniques.
Topics you may learn in class include:
- Clinical procedures
- Lab mathematics
- Equipment operation
- Equipment maintenance
- Computer technology
- Lab testing
- Slide preparation
- Identification of cell structures and abnormalities
- Professional ethics
What accreditation is there for my program?
Accreditation is a sure-fire way to know if a program meets nationally-recognized standards for medical technician education. Independent accrediting organizations register schools once they’ve undergone a rigorous application process.
Aspiring medical technicians should also take care to attend an accredited school for a few reasons:
- To become certified, you need to complete an accredited med tech program
- You’ll have access to federal financial aid programs
- Class credits should transfer if you decide to switch schools
The accreditation organizations who give their stamp of approval:
- National Accrediting Agency For Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) accredits schools with medical lab tech programs, histologic technician programs and several others.
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits schools with allied health programs.
Programs which are accredited by one of the six regional accreditation bodies or organizations accredited for continuing education or career schools are also valid.