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Phlebotomy is a great career choice if you want to work in healthcare without spending years in school. You can earn phlebotomy certification in just a few months and start working right away. A certification program will cover all the basics you need to work as a phlebotomist. Plus, you’ll get plenty of hands-on practice to improve your skills at finding veins, inserting needles, drawing blood, and other important phlebotomy tasks.
“Surprisingly, phlebotomy is one of the easiest ways to break into the medical field,” says D’Vaughn House, a phlebotomist, medical assistant, and research associate at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “It is also a great route for those who are unsure about the medical field.”
Whether you’re eager to get started or still weighing your options, completing a phlebotomy program can help you get on the right track.
What Is a Phlebotomy Certificate or Diploma?
Phlebotomy certificate programs are the most common type of phlebotomy education program. They’ll teach you the knowledge and practical skills you need to succeed in your phlebotomy career. These programs can often be completed in less than a year. You can find them at community colleges and technical schools. Sometimes, hospitals and other large medical facilities will offer their own certification programs.
“Typically, a phlebotomist takes classes over a four- to six-month period to learn basics,” says House, “then there is a 10-day training where you draw blood for eight hours a day. After you complete your training, you are ready for patient-facing visits.”
The exact details will depend on the program you choose. However, there are some basics you can expect in most programs:
What Other Educational Paths Are Available?
There aren’t advanced two- or four-year degree programs specifically in phlebotomy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t advance your education and broaden your skillset. Phlebotomists can earn two-year associate degrees in closely related fields, allowing you to take on higher-level roles and potentially boosting your salary.
“The gold standard is most likely a medical lab technician associate degree,” says House. A medical lab tech works with a medical technologist or physician to perform tests that help physicians diagnose and treat diseases. “Once you obtain that, you can become a manager.”
Other popular advanced education options for phlebotomists include:
Licensing and Certification
There are only four states that mandate any type of certification or licensing for phlebotomists. You’ll need to earn certification and apply for licensure in California, Washington, Louisiana, and Nevada.
While there are no requirements in the rest of the country, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get certified. Earning certification is a great way to boost your career and show proof of your skills and knowledge. Plus, employers often prefer to hire phlebotomists who’ve earned certification.
There are several certification options for phlebotomists, including:
- Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) from the American Society for Clinical Pathology
- Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) from the National Healthcareer Association
- Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT) from American Medical Technologists
- Certified Phlebotomist Technologist from the National Phlebotomy Association
- Phlebotomy certification from the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
- Phlebotomy certification from the National Center for Competency Testing
What to Look for in a School
There are many phlebotomy programs offered throughout the county. The best school for you is the one that best aligns with your career goals. It can be a good idea to check with major employers in your area to see if there are any schools they recommend. Hospitals and healthcare institutions might even have their own education programs.
“You can literally get on-the-job training in some cases,” House says. “Always check with a manager before purchasing a phlebotomy course.”
It’s also a good idea to find out if the programs you’re interested in are approved by professional organizations. Certificate-level programs aren’t generally “accredited;” that’s reserved for degree programs. However, the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) does approve phlebotomy certificate programs.
Programs that are NAACLS-approved also offer a direct path to PBT certification. Graduates of a NAACLS program can apply to take the certification exam without needing to meet any additional requirements.
Beyond ensuring that your educational program is held in high standing, you’ll also want to make sure your school fulfills your specific needs. Look for schools that fit your schedule and your budget. It might be important to find a school that is close to your current job, one that offers part-time options, or that has an excellent work placement rate.
Phlebotomy programs aren’t degrees and don’t qualify for standard types of federal financial aid. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay for it all on your own. There are several options that can help fund your phlebotomy education. Financial aid options include:
Employer-paid Training Programs:
Hospitals and large medical organizations sometimes have their own formal training programs for phlebotomists. You’ll sign a contract with the employer and then attend these programs for free, sometimes even getting paid while you learn. You can find programs like this across the country, including with major organizations such as the American Red Cross.
Workforce and Vocational Programs:
Workforce re-entry and vocational programs often cover the cost of phlebotomy training programs. Not all states and cities have these programs, and you’ll generally need to meet certain income and other requirements to receive aid. The U.S. Department of Labor has an online directory that details offerings available in each state.
Private Student Loans:
Consider loan packages through local credit unions and look for loans with low interest rates.