Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT)

Physicians have many tools to help diagnose and treat their patients. One of the first things many doctors do when evaluating a patient is order laboratory tests such as blood work, biopsies, and urinalysis. While running some of these tests can be relatively straightforward, some tests require a high degree of expertise and skill. These crucial tests that can help diagnose cancer, diabetes, and infectious disease are performed by trained clinical laboratory scientists (CLS) and medical technologists (MT)—titles often used interchangeably.

However, it’s not just about running tests. CLS/MT professionals must follow strict quality standards to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their results.

They are responsible for maintaining and operating laboratory equipment, managing inventories, and updating laboratory procedures to keep up with advances in technology and medical knowledge. They also help monitor the effectiveness of treatments and medications, ensuring patients receive the appropriate care.

Professionals must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program in medical laboratory science or a related field to start in this field. This degree should include coursework in biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Not only is a degree required to be able to perform the job duties, but it is also required for national certification and may be required for licensure. 

The demand for CLS and MTs is growing. As the population ages, there is an increased need for medical professionals to diagnose and treat illnesses, increasing the demand for trained  CLS and MTs who can perform complex tests. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) predicts a 7 percent growth in employment from 2021-2031. This growth rate is slightly higher than the national average of 5 percent for all occupations. 

Keep reading to learn more about the steps required to become a CLS or MT.

Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Specializations & Degree Types

CLS and MTs can pursue various specializations, such as clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, molecular biology, and histotechnology. Degree types for CLS/MT professionals range from at least a bachelor’s degree to doctoral degrees, with higher levels of education often leading to advanced positions or research opportunities. 

Alternatively, military personnel who have completed a 50-week US military medical laboratory training course can obtain certification and work in this field. 

Admissions Requirements for Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Programs

Admissions requirements for CLS and Medical Technologist MT programs vary depending on the degree level and institution. Generally, applicants must have a strong foundation in science and mathematics. Bachelor’s degree programs may require standardized test scores such as ACT or SAT, minimum GPA, and specific high school coursework. 

More advanced programs such as master’s or doctorate may require prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, and mathematics courses. Additional requirements for graduate programs include a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and relevant work or volunteer experience in a healthcare setting. Some programs require standardized test scores, such as the GRE.

Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT Program Accreditation

Program accreditation is essential to ensure that the education provided meets established quality standards in the field. CLS and MT programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). The NAACLS evaluates and approves programs based on curriculum, facilities, faculty qualifications, and program outcomes. Attending an accredited program offers students a high-quality education, ensures eligibility for certification exams, and enhances employability within the healthcare industry. 

On-Campus Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Degree Programs

Arizona State University – College of Health Solutions

The bachelor of applied science in medical laboratory science at Arizona State University is a two-year comprehensive program designed to provide students with in-depth academic knowledge and professional skill. Students will learn to perform analysis of blood, tissue, and body fluids to detect, diagnose, and treat diseases. Graduates of this concentration will be well-prepared for careers in medical and clinical laboratories. The curriculum covers clinical chemistry, hematology, immunology, microbiology, and molecular diagnostics, ensuring a well-rounded education for aspiring medical laboratory scientists.

Students who wish to enroll in this program must complete two years of general studies first and an associate’s of applied science. They must also have completed a basic life support course or have CPR certification. 

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Duration: Two year
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $1,554 per credit

Mayo Clinic – College of Medicine and Science

The Mayo Clinic’s Medical Laboratory Science program offers an outstanding educational experience, combining an integrated curriculum with extensive hands-on clinical training. Students learn to analyze various biological samples and conduct advanced scientific tests using cutting-edge technology, ultimately reporting their findings to physicians. Under the guidance of experts from the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP), students receive valuable training in one of the world’s largest laboratories, with over 90 specialty labs and conducting millions of tests annually.

This program includes a comprehensive curriculum encompassing online learning, lectures, daily lab sessions, and practical clinical experiences. Emphasis is placed on the practical application of knowledge, with students training alongside a highly skilled team of medical lab professionals. While there are some online components to this degree, the entire training must be completed while residing near the Jacksonville or Rochester campus. 

  • Location: Jacksonville, FL and Rochester, MN
  • Duration: 10 and a half months
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $549 per credit  

Northwestern Health Sciences University

Northwestern Health Sciences University offers an accredited bachelor’s of science in medical laboratory science program for students with an associate’s degree in medical laboratory technology. The comprehensive program can be completed in just two years. Required classes in biological sciences will train students to perform complicated lab procedures. Other required courses include microbiology, immunology, organic chemistry, and cell biology. 

Admission to this program is competitive. To be considered, students must have an associate’s of science or applied science in medical laboratory technology, a GPA of 2.0 or higher, a personal essay, an up-to-date resume, and current ASCP or AMT certification. Graduates of this program will have the necessary skills to perform both automated and manual tests. 

  • Location: Bloomington, MN
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $435 per credit

Bowling Green State University

At Bowling Green State University, students can earn a bachelor of science in medical laboratory science degree. This comprehensive program combines quality classroom experiences with hands-on training in state-of-the-art laboratories. Students learn from dedicated faculty members and complete diagnostic microbiology, clinical chemistry, human physiology, and molecular biology courses. The curriculum covers foundational basic science, math, humanities, and social sciences coursework and includes a clinical practicum at an affiliated hospital laboratory. 

Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the ASCP national certification examination. This program boasts a 100 percent job placement rate for graduates within six months of completing their degree. 

  • Location: Bowling Green, OH
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $21,718 per year 

Idaho State University 

A master’s and bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science options are available to students at Idaho State University. The bachelor’s program provides students with a strong foundation in various laboratory disciplines, preparing them for careers as medical laboratory scientists or further education. There is a strong emphasis on hands-on experience and research. To earn this undergraduate degree, students must complete at least 120 credits, including 36 upper-division credits.

The master’s degree caters to practicing laboratory professionals or students seeking certification and leadership roles in administration, education, or pathology specialization. Graduates excel in teaching, lab management, and research positions. The program offers full-time and part-time options with a personalized curriculum based on student’s interests and experiences. To graduate, students must complete an original research project, a thesis, and at least 32 graduate credits.

  • Location: Pocatello, ID
  • Duration: Four years for the bachelor’s and two years for the master’s
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $25,934 per year for the bachelor’s and $28,608 per year for the master’s

Online or Hybrid Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Degree Programs

Austin Peay State University

Professionals who already hold a Medical Laboratory Technician national certification and have an associate’s of science or applied science can complete their bachelor’s of science entirely online through Austin Peay State University. This program requires no campus visits and can be completed in as little as 11 months with the proper prerequisite coursework. Students can take up to four years to complete this degree, allowing them to work while furthering their education. 

Classes in this program are taught by board-certified medical laboratory science professionals with extensive expertise in this field. As part of this program, students will learn normal physiology, pathological conditions, laboratory skills, how to correlate test results to a diagnosis, and how to manage a laboratory. 

  • Location: Clarksville, TN
  • Duration: 11 months to four years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $515 per credit

University of Cincinnati Online

In just two years, students can complete an online bachelor’s of science in medical laboratory science at the University of Cincinnati. Students must already hold a Medical Laboratory Technician national certification to be eligible for this program. Earning a bachelor’s degree can help graduates with career advancement, increased pay, and employability. To help students succeed, this program offers dedicated Student Success Coordinators that guide course selection, registration, and even job applications.

Admission to this program is competitive, and students must have already earned an associate’s degree in MLT/CLT from a NAACLS-accredited institution. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of at least 2.5 or higher and proof of current ASCP, AAB, or AMT certification. Professional references, current transcripts, and a completed online application must be considered.

  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $571 per credit

Weber State University – Dumke College of Health Professions 

The online bachelor’s of science medical laboratory scientist degree program at Weber State University Dumke College of Health Professions is for certified MLTs who want to further their career and education. This program focuses on ethical behavior, effective communication skills, patient safety, and high-complexity laboratory procedures. Students learn from instructors with extensive industry and teaching experience. Upon completion, graduates can work in high-demand healthcare settings such as clinics, hospitals, research institutions, pharmaceutical labs, veterinary clinics, forensic labs, public health, blood donation, or transplant centers.

Students must complete general education and core classes to have a well-rounded education. Students will participate in simulated laboratory classes and supervised clinical experiences to gain the necessary hands-on skills to perform this job. 

  • Location: Ogden, UT
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $16,164 per year

George Washington University – School of Medicine and Health Sciences 

George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences offers an online bachelor of science in health sciences in medical laboratory science that prepares undergraduates for entry-level work in this field. This program is ideal for students with a strong interest in diagnosing diseases and a solid background in science-based coursework. This program teaches students hands-on experience in laboratory work, data analysis, and other essential skills. 

Applicants with an MLT certification through the ASCP, AMT, or AAB can apply for the 100 percent online program. Students without certification but with at least 45 transferable credits can complete a hybrid program. Both programs take approximately two and a half years to complete. 

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Duration: 2 and a half years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $2,080 per credit 

Georgia Southern University – Waters College of Health Professions

The medical laboratory science online fast-track program at Georgia Southern University is available to students who have completed a bachelor of science degree in biology or chemistry and want to pursue a career in this field. The program involves online coursework and clinical training in a laboratory setting. Students must have a 2.5 GPA (or higher) in previous undergraduate coursework to be eligible for admission. 

Students must currently work in a hospital laboratory setting and require approval from their clinical site to participate in this program. Graduates will be eligible for certification, employment in various laboratory settings, and education, supervision, or management positions within the field. Students must maintain training support at an approved clinical facility while enrolled.

  • Location: Statesboro, GA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $182.13 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT)?

The time it takes to become a CLS or MT depends on the degree level and program. At a minimum, students must complete a bachelor’s degree, which requires four years of full-time study. Pursuing a master’s degree will take an additional two years of education, and doctoral programs may take three to five years. 

After completing their education, candidates must pass a certification exam from organizations like the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) or the American Medical Technologists (AMT). Including certification preparation, the entire process can take two or more years after high school, depending on the individual’s educational and career goals.

How To Become a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) – Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Graduate from High School or Earn a GED (Four Years)

Graduating from high school or earning a GED is the first step to becoming a CLS or MT. Students should focus on science and mathematics courses to build a strong foundation for future studies. Volunteering in the healthcare field during high school can add valuable hands-on experience before enrolling in an undergraduate program. 

Step Two: Complete a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Bachelor’s Program (Four Years)

A bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science, clinical laboratory science, or medical technology is required for a career as a CLS or MT. These programs provide clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, and molecular diagnostics knowledge and skills. It is also possible to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field like biology, chemistry, or biochemistry, followed by completing a post-baccalaureate medical laboratory science program accredited by organizations such as the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)

Step Three: Earn a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Certification (Timeline Varies, Optional)

Certification for CLS and MTs is a voluntary process for the most part but may be required by some state licensing boards and employers. More details on the certification process are in the certification and licensure section below.

Step Four: Obtain State License If Required

Some states may require that CLS and MTs be licensed as laboratory personnel. Professionals in this field should contact their local licensing board to ensure they have the necessary credentials to perform their job duties. More details on the licensing can be found in the certification and licensure section below.

What Do Clinical Laboratory Scientists (CLS) / Medical Technologists (MT) Do?

CLS and MTs work in a variety of settings, including hospital laboratories, private or commercial labs, physician’s offices, clinics, public health laboratories, blood banks, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, research institutions, universities, forensic laboratories, veterinary labs, and government agencies such as the CDC and FDA. Job duties will vary based on place of employment but will typically include:

  • Collecting and processing patient samples, such as blood, urine, and tissue.
  • Conducting various laboratory tests to analyze body fluids, cells, and tissues.
  • Identifying microorganisms in patient samples, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
  • Performing blood typing and compatibility testing for transfusions.
  • Analyzing test results and ensuring their accuracy before reporting to healthcare providers.
  • Maintaining and calibrating laboratory equipment to ensure accurate test results.
  • Implementing quality control procedures to maintain high standards in laboratory testing.
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients.
  • Staying current with advances in laboratory techniques and technologies.
  • Ensuring compliance with safety and regulatory guidelines to maintain a safe working environment.

Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Certifications & Licensure

Only ten states require CLS and MTs to obtain a license to perform their job duties. These states include California, Hawaii, Florida, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee, Louisiana, Nevada, West Virginia, and Montana. Professionals in these states should contact their local board to learn the licensure qualifications. In Florida, for example, the requirements include:

  • Be a Florida licensed doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, or doctor of podiatric medicine; or have earned a doctoral, master’s, or bachelor’s degree in a chemical, physical, biological, or clinical laboratory science, or medical technology from an accredited institution; or have earned an associate degree in a laboratory science or medical laboratory technology from an accredited institution, or education and training that is equivalent
  • Obtain national certification from the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB), American Medical Technologists (AMT), or American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
  • Submit a complete application
  • Pay an application fee

Certification for CLS and MTs is a voluntary process in most states but may be required by employers and help with advancement or job applications. The three primary certifying agencies are the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB), American Medical Technologists (AMT), and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). 

Candidates for AAB Medical Technologist Generalist Certification (MT) must pass the MT exam and meet one of the following requirements:

  • Earn a doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s degree, or the equivalent, from an accredited university or college with a major in a chemical, physical, biological, clinical laboratory science or medical technology
  • Earn an associate degree or an associate of applied science degree from an accredited institution with a major in clinical laboratory science or medical technology
  • Earn at least sixty semester hours, or equivalent, from an accredited institution that, at a minimum, includes either 24 semester hours of medical laboratory technology courses OR  24 semester hours of science courses that include six semester hours of chemistry, six semester hours of biology, and twelve semester hours of courses in chemistry, biology or medical laboratory technology in any combination

To be eligible for the AMT Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS), candidates must either have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher in medical laboratory science or equivalent in the past five years or have a bachelor’s degree in any field, one year of clinical laboratory work experience and have completed an acceptable program containing a clinical rotation in blood banking, microbiology, chemistry, and hematology through either an accredited medical laboratory technician (MLT) program OR a 50-week US military medical laboratory training program.

The ASCP offers the Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) certification. Candidates must pass the ASCP MLS exam and meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and complete a NAACLS-accredited medical laboratory scientist program within the last five years
  • Have a valid MLT(ASCP) certification and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college/university with 16 semester-hours in biology, including one semester in microbiology and 16 semester-hours in chemistry, including one semester in organic or biochemistry, and two years of full time acceptable clinical experience in blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, and urinalysis/body fluids in an acceptable laboratory within the last five years
  • Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college/university with 16 semester hours in biology, including one semester in microbiology and 16 semester hours in chemistry, including one semester in organic or biochemistry, and five years of full-time acceptable clinical experience in blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, and urinalysis/body fluids in an acceptable laboratory within the last ten years
  • Complete a 50-week U.S. military medical laboratory training course within the last ten years, have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college/university with 16 semester-hours in biology, including one semester in microbiology and 16 semester-hours in chemistry including one semester in organic or biochemistry and one year of full time acceptable clinical experience in blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, and urinalysis/body fluids in an acceptable laboratory within the last ten years

How Much Do Clinical Laboratory Scientists (CLS) / Medical Technologists (MT) Make?

CLS and MTs are classified as clinical laboratory technologists and technicians by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022). The average wage for this career is $59,130 per year. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $35,220 
  • 25th percentile: $40,440
  • 50th  percentile (median): $57,380
  • 75th percentile: $74,920
  • 90th percentile: $84,670

Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) / Medical Technologist (MT) Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a CLS/MT: 

Become a Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) are responsible for assessing patients’ health conditions, developing and implementing individualized care plans, administering medications, and monitoring vital signs. They collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals, offering valuable insights and advocating for their patient’s well-being. Beyond their clinical duties, registered nurses may help educate patients and their families on managing illnesses or injuries.

  • Typical Education: Associate’s or bachelor’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, American Nurses Credentialing Center, National Certification Corporation

Become a Phlebotomist

Phlebotomists specialize in collecting and handling blood samples for diagnostic, transfusion, and research purposes. Their primary responsibilities include performing venipuncture, capillary puncture, and other blood collection techniques while adhering to strict safety and infection control procedures. 

They work hard to ensure patient comfort during the procedure and must meticulously label and prepare specimens for laboratory analysis. Professional demeanor, effective communication with patients and colleagues, and contribution to a seamless workflow within the clinical environment are critical skills for this job. 

  • Typical Education: On-the-job training or certification
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Medical Technologists (AMT), National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC)

Become a Histotechnologist

A histotechnologist prepares and analyzes tissue samples for diagnostics and research. Primary duties involve processing and embedding tissue specimens, followed by sectioning and staining them using advanced techniques to reveal cellular structures and abnormalities. 

Histotechnologists operate and maintain complex laboratory equipment, ensuring accuracy and precision in creating microscope slides. Often they must collaborate with pathologists and other healthcare professionals to interpret findings and contribute to the accurate diagnosis of diseases.

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Society of Clinical Pathology
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

At HealthcareDegree.com, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth and insightful articles since 2019, aiding prospective students to navigate the complexities of choosing the right healthcare degree. Her recent work includes topics such as the ethics of gene editing and physician assistant’s fight for autonomy.

Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

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