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There are no nationally required phlebotomy professional certifications. In fact, unless you live in California, Nevada, Washington, or Louisiana, you don’t need any kind of certification or license to work as a phlebotomist. However, that doesn’t mean certification isn’t important for your phlebotomy career after you’ve completed your education.
Certification is a great way to prove you’ve mastered the basics of phlebotomy and that you have the skill and knowledge you need to perform your job safely, efficiently, and accurately. Plus, many employers do require or strongly prefer certification. It shows you’ll be ready to take on the more advanced or specialized tasks that specific workplaces require. That makes certification a smart move, no matter what state you live in.
“Every institution has different requirements for phlebotomists, but many institutions require a basic certification,” says D’Vaughn House, a phlebotomist, medical assistant, and research associate at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases. He explains that trained phlebotomists who’ve earned certifications are ready to adapt to any medical facility. Once they’re hired by an institution, they’re ready to be trained per the clinic’s protocols.
Certificate vs Certification
- A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.
- A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.
In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.
Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.
Before you earn professional certification, you must complete a phlebotomy training program. Phlebotomist school is short in length—one to two semesters, or 4 to 8 months, depending on your school. You’ll be awarded a certificate, which is different than certification, which prepares you to work with patients in different settings such as labs, blood banks, and hospitals.
There are three primary certifications for phlebotomists. These certifications carry national recognition. They’re a good bet for phlebotomists who want to add a certification to their resumes.
It’s important to note that all three primary certifications may allow you to practice phlebotomy at the same level and same workplaces. The primary differences are the exam costs, paths to eligibility, and renewal requirements.
There are additional certification options available. There is no harm in earning any of these certifications. However, they aren’t as widely recognized as the PBT, CPT, or RPT.
About the Exams
You’ll need to take a competency exam no matter which certification route you choose. The exam will test the knowledge you learned in your phlebotomy education program. You should expect to answer questions about:
You’ll also be asked a variety of scenario-based questions. These will ask you to choose the best response to hypothetical patient interactions or workplace situations. For example, they might ask what you would do in the case of a patient who fainted while you were drawing their blood, or how you would communicate with a non-verbal patient.
There are study guides and practice tests available online for all certification exams. Additionally, your phlebotomy education program will likely have study groups or classes available. If it’s been a while since you attended a program, or if you’re eligible based on experience and not education, online study guides can be a major help.
Are Phlebotomists Required to be Certified or Licensed?
There are only four states that require phlebotomists to be certified or licensed. You’ll need certification or licensure if you want to work as a phlebotomist in California, Washington, Louisiana, or Nevada. The exact certification rules depend on which of these states you live in.
Salary and Job Growth
Phlebotomists may enjoy a salary that is comparable to many other allied health professionals, including medical assistants and pharmacy technicians. Earning certification is one way you may be able to boost your earning potential. Plus, certification is a great way to show your dedication in a field that’s expected to grow.
Roles for phlebotomists are expected to be added at medical facilities all over the country throughout the next decade. In fact, more than 13,900 new phlebotomy roles are expected to be created by 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s not certain that every single one of those 13,900 roles will require certification, but it’s possible many of them will.