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Laboratory Technician Education & Certification

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In general, medical laboratory technicians and technologists must possess an associate's or bachelor's degree, respectively, in order to work in their field. After earning such a degree, certification is also required in most states and by most employers.

Online Colleges Offering Laboratory Technician Degrees:

Basic Education Requirements

Medical technicians and technologists require different levels of education. Typically, a medical technician must possess an associate's degree, and most medical technologists are required to have a bachelor's degree in some form of science, such as:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology

Bachelor's degree programs usually take four years to complete. Coursework should focus on the clinical laboratory, although some four-year programs require additional coursework in business management, computer science, and communications.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires that all laboratory technicians attain at least an associate's degree in order to perform diagnostic tests on human tissue. An associate's degree can be earned in two years. This timeline can be shortened, however, by taking summer school courses.

Alternatives to College

If you don't want to (or don't have the time to) attend college for two to four years, there are other avenues you can take to become a medical technician. Some medical technicians earn certificates from programs at hospitals, technical training centers, vocational schools or through the military. Medical lab technicians also can learn skills on the job, if an employer is willing to hire them despite their nonexistent educational backgrounds.

Certification Basics

In addition to earning an associate's or bachelor's degree, medical technicians and technologists should obtain a license and certification. Many hospitals and physician's offices require that their clinical laboratory staff be certified through an accredited organization, such as:

ASCP Certification

There are a variety of certifications available from the American Society of Clinical Pathology Board of Certification. These include:

To obtain MLT or MLS certification, you must provide proof that you meet the educational requirements, and then pass the ASCP examination. Recertification is due every five years.

Individuals who possess ASCP certification have access to a network of professional laboratory clinicians already working in the field. Newsletters, continuing education courses, and annual workshops allow members to stay current with industry standards and regulations. According to the ASCP those certified earn a higher overall pay compared with other certifications.

AMT Certification

The American Medical Technologists organization offers certification as:

To obtain certification, you must meet the qualifications outlined on the AMT Web site and pass the AMT exam.

AMT is an internationally recognized organization in the clinical laboratory industry. Currently, there are more than 40,000 AMT-certified professionals. AMT membership allows access to a career placement database for healthcare careers, continuing education programs, and educational workshops that keep members up to date with the latest industry trends.

AAB Certification

The American Association of Bioanalysts offers certification as a Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) in one or more of six technical disciplines:

  • Chemistry (Clinical Chemistry, Endocrinology, Toxicology, Urinalysis, Radioimmunoassay)
  • Hematology (Hemostasis, Coagulation, Hematologic Elements, Cell Identification and Parameters, Bone Marrow, Staining, Hematologic Abnormalities and Disease)
  • Immunology (Serology, General Immunology, Antibody and Antigen Identification and Measurement)
  • Immunohematology (ABO Grouping and Rh Typing, Unexpected Antibody Detection and Identification, Compatibility Testing)
  • Microbiology (Bacteriology, Mycology, Parasitology, and Virology)
  • Molecular Diagnostics

The AAB also offer certification as a Medical Technologist (MT) in up to seven of the following disciplines:

  • Chemistry (Clinical Chemistry, Endocrinology, Toxicology, Urinalysis, Radioimmunoassay)
  • Hematology (Hemostasis, Coagulation, Hematologic Elements, Cell Identification and Parameters, Bone Marrow, Staining, Hematologic Abnormalities and Disease)
  • Immunology (Serology, General Immunology, Antibody and Antigen Identification and Measurement)
  • Immunohematology (ABO Grouping and Rh Typing, Unexpected Antibody Detection and Identification, Compatibility Testing)
  • Microbiology (Bacteriology, Mycology, Parasitology, and Virology)
  • Molecular Diagnostics
  • Andrology (Male Infertility, Semen Analysis, Sperm Function Tests, Sperm-Cervical Mucus Interaction, Anti-Sperm Antibodies)
  • Embryology (Oocyte Identification and Fertilization, Micromanipulation, Embryo Culture, Cryopreservation)

To become AAB-certified, you must provide a college transcript, and you must be able to pass the examination. The certification process usually takes six to eight weeks. Certified AAB members have access to a job board and a network of other AAB members. Continuing education courses are offered for free to allow further learning in clinical laboratory procedures.

Article Resources:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
American Society for Clinical Pathology
American Medical Technologists
American Association of Bioanalysts

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