Blood samples, microscopic cells and spinal fluid: That’s just a regular day at the lab for a medical technologist or technician.
Sound interesting? To work in this fast-paced and evolving field, you need a passion for science and strong analytical skills. If this describes you, consider taking the next step and enrolling in one of the many medical technologist programs across the country.
A medical technology degree is a requirement if you want to work in the field. You have two options to choose from: An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in medical technology.
Each medical technology degree has its benefits. Compare the differences to decide which one fits your goals.
An associate’s degree in medical technology gives students an opportunity to work in lab settings and gain a well-rounded education in liberal arts and science. It takes two years to complete.
The first year of study includes math, English and introductory science courses (anatomy and chemistry). You’ll also delve into blood sample collection and body fluid analysis.
Here’s a look at other courses included in a medical technology program:
|Medical Technology Courses for an Associate’s Degree|
|Medical Lab Procedures||Clinical Chemistry|
Once you complete your associate’s degree requirements, you’ll be prepared to take a professional certification exam and work as a medical technician.
A bachelor’s degree in medical technology takes four years to complete, but can lead to more career opportunities. With the additional time in school, you’ll be immersed in more hands-on experiences. Your coursework will also cover higher level topics such as management, leadership and complex issues in medical technology.
Your course list will look similar to that of an associate’s degree program, but you’ll also learn about:
|Medical Technology Courses for Bachelor’s Degree|
|Genetics||Mycology (the study of fungi)|
|Molecular Biology||Health Care Ethics|
If you’re interested in specializing in a certain area, some schools offer tracks such as public health and biotechnology.
Upon completing your degree, you’ll be qualified to work as a medical technologist.
Medical technologists and technicians have related job duties, such as performing tests for health care professionals, but the level of complexity differs between the jobs. Both medical technologists and technicians are responsible for analyzing body fluids to check for abnormalities. Technicians are often responsible for the data entry of the findings. Technicians interact with patients by collecting blood samples.
A technologist may also do the same, but their job goes a step further. They’re tasked with analyzing the samples, determining the blood group and type and weighing in on whether blood is compatible for transfusions. Medical technicians set up, maintain and clean equipment. This isn’t a main responsibility for a technologist. Another difference? Medical technologists perform manual tests while a technician will conduct tests using an automated process.
As you think about your career path, consider the type of workplaces you’d be interested in.
When they’re not interacting with patients, medical technologists and technicians are handling the flood of orders coming into the lab. The main goal is to get accurate results as soon as possible, but it doesn’t stop there. Medical technologists need to review the results and make a judgment call on when to alert doctors and medical staff. For example, they might input non-serious test results into the computer system for doctors to review later. On the other hand, a medical technologist or technician will contact medical staff directly if the results require immediate action.
Medical technologists and technicians often say strong organizational skills are the key to success. Some lab work can be done quickly, while other samples need to time to culture. It’s no small feat to keep track of the many samples that need to be tested and reviewed.
There’s never a dull moment for medical technologists and technicians. One minute, you could be drawing blood from an elderly patient and the next, you’re heading to the pediatric unit of the hospital to take a sample from a sick child. In other words, you need to adapt quickly and use different techniques to make patients feel comfortable.
Note: Working in a hospital may require you to work nights, weekends or holidays, whereas a doctor’s office usually has regular hours.
With the help of an undergraduate education, medical technologists can earn a decent salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook (BLS), medical technologists earn a median annual income of $61,070.
Various factors—geographic location and experience level, to name a few—contribute to the type of pay you can earn as a medical technologist. As an example of this, the lowest 10 percent of medical technologists earn less than $41,550 whereas the top 10 percent earn more than $85,160.
Medical technology is a career path with advancement opportunities, which can boost your pay. You might work toward a supervisor or senior role in the laboratory.
Since medical technicians typically have an associate’s degree and less complex job responsibilities, their salary reflects that. The BLS lists a median annual income of $38,950 for medical technicians.
Professional certification is an important piece of any medical technologist’s career. A medical technology certification program evaluates your skill level and abilities as a medical technologist. Many employers require or prefer that medical technologists and technicians have certification.
The American Medical Technologists (AMT) is the certification agency that administers the exam to test your knowledge and skills. There are three different “routes” to become certified as medical technologist.
The process is similar for medical technicians, but check with AMT for exact eligibility criteria.
Medical technology relies heavily on in-person lab work, but if you’re looking for a medical technology program online, there are some options.
Medical technology online programs are designed for students who have an existing background in the field. Some schools only accept students into their distance learning medical technology program if they are currently employed in a hospital or lab. Other online bachelor’s programs are crafted for students who already have an associate’s degree in medical technology and looking to advance in their career.
How Medical Technology Online Programs Work
If you enroll in a program that requires that you already work in a lab or hospital, your hands-on work will be conducted there. Your didactic courses will be available online in the form of lecture notes, videos and other methods.
Bachelor’s degree programs follow a similar format—lectures are done online while hands-on experience is conducted in a lab or clinic. The school will work with you to find an appropriate location to conduct your clinical experiences, usually in your city or town.
The courses you’ll take in a distance learning program won’t differ from an on-campus curriculum, but here are a few examples of the classes you’ll actually take online:
You’re choosing a great time to consider a medical technology degree. More patients have access to health care and an increased number of conditions are being evaluated in a lab. Your work may be primarily behind the scenes, but you’ll be an important asset in the medical field.
Tell us a little about yourself and we’ll connect you with schools that offer medical technician degree programs.