Clinical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists
This group of professionals can be known by a variety of different terms, including clinical laboratory scientists, medical technologists, medical laboratory technicians and technologists, and medical scientists. They perform the laboratory tests that are crucial to the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases.
Duties, Activities, and Scope of Practice
The technicians have lesser degrees and therefore perform at a lower level of responsibility and diagnostics than the technologists. The primary function of this group is to analyze blood and other bodily fluids, tissue samples, cultures, and cellular structure to identify bacteria, parasites, microorganisms, and disease. They also test for drug levels, count cells, and match blood samples for transfusions. This information is used in analyzing the success of treatments, the presence of disease, and the need for other treatments.
Technological advancements have allowed technicians and technologists to become more specialized and to spend more time analyzing data than in the precise process of such things as hand-counting components of cells.
Education and Training
Technicians typically have completed an associate's degree, and the technologists at least a bachelor's degree, in clinical or medical laboratory science. The curriculum includes biology, chemistry, and math, as well as theory and laboratory experience in hematology, immunology, microbiology, and clinical chemistry. The program also includes an internship in supervised clinical practice. There are approximately 275 accredited courses today. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) oversees this accreditation.
Those who want to pursue an avenue of teaching or research need to have a master's degree.
Many states require licensing, and this information is available from the State Department of Health or occupational licensing boards. Certification is available from several agencies. The oldest is the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), which has its own set of criteria for education and experience before a candidate can sit for the examinations. Their Web site is
Other agencies offering certification include the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (
Work Settings and Salaries
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that clinical laboratory technologists and technicians held more than 300,000 jobs in 2004, and more than half of these jobs were in hospitals. Others held jobs in physicians' offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, ambulatory health care centers, and some in educational services.
The median salary for technologists in 2004 was $45,730, with salaries ranging from $32,240 to over $63,000. Technicians earned a median salary of $30,840 in 2004. Their salaries ranged from $20,410 to over $45,000.
You can find advancement in this profession through education and specialization opportunities. There is also a lot of room for advancement for those who wish to learn to operate and maintain new technological equipment as it emerges.
Technologists and technicians work forty-hour weeks, but the hours can vary depending on the setting. In hospitals, technologists and technicians work twenty-four hours per day, and therefore these professionals may work any shift, and their hours will include weekends and holidays. In smaller, independent laboratory settings, the hours may vary as well and can include on-call responsibilities for after hours and weekends/holidays in case of emergencies.
Career Potential and Additional Information
The outlook for those seeking employment in these laboratory careers is expected to continue to grow faster than the average for all occupations. This is due in part to the fact that the number of jobs already exceeds those seeking employment. The needs of a growing and aging population who will require more medical services will also increase employment opportunities in this field. Technological advances will create new tests that are more sophisticated and complex.
Additional information on careers in clinical laboratory fields is available from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. Their Web site is