What They Do: Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
Work Environment: Many clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work in hospitals. Others work in medical and diagnostic laboratories or doctors' offices.
How to Become One: Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor's degree. Technicians usually need an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.
Salary: The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is $57,800.
Job Outlook: Overall employment of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 7 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians with similar occupations.
Following is everything you need to know about a career as a clinical laboratory technologist or technician with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:
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Clinical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and clinical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians typically do the following:
Both technicians and technologists perform tests and procedures that physicians and surgeons or other healthcare personnel order. However, technologists perform more complex tests and laboratory procedures than technicians do. For example, technologists may prepare specimens and perform detailed manual tests, whereas technicians perform routine tests that may be more automated. Clinical laboratory technicians usually work under the general supervision of clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers.
Technologists in small laboratories perform many types of tests; in large laboratories, they sometimes specialize. The following are examples of types of specialized clinical laboratory technologists:
Blood bank technologists, or immunohematology technologists, collect blood, classify it by type, and prepare blood and its components for transfusions.
Clinical chemistry technologists prepare specimens and analyze the chemical and hormonal contents of body fluids.
Cytotechnologists prepare slides of body cells and examine these cells under a microscope for abnormalities that may signal the beginning of a cancerous growth.
Immunology technologists examine elements of the human immune system and its response to foreign bodies.
Microbiology technologists examine and identify bacteria and other microorganisms.
Molecular biology technologists perform complex protein and nucleic acid tests on cell samples.
Like technologists, clinical laboratory technicians may work in several areas of the laboratory or specialize in one area. For example, histotechnicians are a type of clinical laboratory technician who cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists—doctors who study the cause and development of diseases at a microscopic level.
Technologists and technicians often specialize after they have worked in a particular area for a long time or have received advanced education or training in that area.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians hold about 329,200 jobs. The largest employers of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians are as follows:
|General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private||45%|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||22%|
|Offices of physicians||10%|
|Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||5%|
|Outpatient care centers||3%|
Clinical laboratory personnel are trained to work with infectious specimens or with materials that are caustic or produce fumes. When they follow proper methods to control infection and sterilize equipment, the risk decreases. They wear protective masks, gloves, and goggles for their safety.
Technologists and technicians can be on their feet for long periods, and they may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians risk injury or illness on the job. For example, they may be subject to repetitive motion injuries because they do the same tasks repeatedly.
Most clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.
Get the education you need: Find schools for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians near you!
Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor's degree. Technicians usually need an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.
An entry-level job for technologists usually requires a bachelor's degree in medical technology or life sciences.
A bachelor's degree program in medical laboratory technology, also known as a medical laboratory scientist degree, includes courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, and statistics. Students typically complete college coursework and then apply to the clinical portion of the program. Coursework emphasizes laboratory skills, including safety procedures and lab management, while the clinical portion includes hands-on training in a typical work setting like a hospital. Some laboratory science programs can be completed in 2 years or less and require prior college coursework or a bachelor's degree.
Clinical laboratory technicians often complete an associate's degree program in clinical laboratory science. The Armed Forces and vocational or technical schools also may offer certificate programs for medical laboratory technicians. Technician coursework addresses the theoretical and practical aspects of each of the major laboratory disciplines.
High school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the medical laboratory sciences should take classes in chemistry, biology, and math.
Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed. Requirements vary by state and specialty. For specific requirements, contact state departments of health, state boards of occupational licensing, or visit The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.
Certification of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is required for licensure in some states. Although certification is not required to enter the occupation in all cases, employers typically prefer to hire certified technologists and technicians.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians can obtain a general certification as a medical laboratory technologist or technician, respectively, or a certification in a specialty, such as cytotechnology or medical biology. Most credentialing institutions require that technologists complete an accredited education program in order to qualify to sit for an exam. For more credentialing information, visit the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, American Medical Technologists, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Ability to use technology. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must understand how to operate computerized lab equipment.
Detail oriented. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must follow exact instructions in order to perform tests or procedures correctly.
Dexterity. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians need to be skilled with their hands. They work closely with needles and precision laboratory instruments and must handle these tools effectively.
Physical stamina. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians may work on their feet for long periods while collecting samples. They may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples for testing.
After additional education, work experience, or certification, technologists and technicians may specialize in one of many areas of laboratory science, such as immunology, histotechnology, or clinical chemistry. Some clinical laboratory technicians advance to technologist positions after gaining experience and additional education. Some colleges have bachelor's degree programs for medical laboratory technicians to become technologists (often referred to as MLT to MLS programs).
The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is $57,800. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,340.
The median annual wages for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Outpatient care centers||$60,110|
|General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private||$59,930|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||$48,660|
|Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||$48,290|
|Offices of physicians||$47,890|
Most clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that are always open, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.
Employment of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 7 percent over the next ten years, about as fast the average for all occupations.
About 25,600 openings for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures. Prenatal testing for various types of genetic conditions also is increasingly common. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians will be in demand to use and maintain the equipment needed for diagnosis and treatment.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
|Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians||329,200||351,000||7||21,800|
For more information about clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, visit
The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
American Society of Cytopathology
For a list of accredited and approved educational programs for medical laboratory personnel, visit
National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
For information on certification, visit
American Association of Bioanalysts
American Medical Technologists
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.