Medical Laboratory Technician

The majority of the seven billion diagnostic medical laboratory exams performed each year are processed by trained medical laboratory technicians who have the skill and training to perform analyses on blood, urine, and tissue samples. The results of these tests help physicians make a diagnosis about a patient’s condition and allow them to prescribe a course of treatment.

Medical laboratory technicians have typically completed an associate of applied science (AAS) in medical laboratory technology. These two-year programs prepare aspiring professionals for success in this field with lecture courses such as hematology, clinical chemistry, immunology, and microbiology. Students also participate in extensive labs where they put their book learning to work.

Lastly, most programs culminate in an intensive internship program where students work in an actual lab. Under close supervision, students will learn how a lab runs, how to process tests, and how to run complex instruments.

Certification is available through either the American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Holding a credential is an industry standard in this field, although it is not required. Professionals who have earned a certification demonstrate to potential and current employers that they have obtained a high level of competence in this field and have the necessary skills to excel in this career.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), there is a strong demand for professionals in this career. Between 2019 and 2029, there is an anticipated 7 percent increase in jobs in this field, translating into 24,700 new jobs. Jobs for medical laboratory technologists are growing faster than the national average, which sits at 4 percent for the next ten years. Currently, the 337,800 medical laboratory technicians employed in the US earn $54,180 per year on average.

Use the guide below to learn more details on how to become a medical laboratory technician. Included are top on-campus, hybrid, and online programs, typical job duties, and program admission requirements.

Medical Laboratory Technician Specializations & Degree Types

In order to start a career as a medical laboratory technician, aspiring professionals must earn an associate of science degree. While it is most common to complete this degree in medical laboratory technology, some students may complete a general associate of science and then earn an additional certificate in medical laboratory technology. Associate degrees consist of either 60 semester-hours (or 90 quarter-credits), while certificate programs may only require half that many.

While neither the degree nor the certificate is required to work in this field, it is a requirement for certification and most employers.

Admissions Requirements for Medical Laboratory Technician Programs

Admission requirements for medical laboratory technician programs can vary based on the program and institution. Often, gaining admission to a community college or university is as simple as applying and having a high school diploma or GED.

However, admission to medical laboratory technician programs is competitive and may have additional requirements such as prerequisite coursework, a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and CPR certification.

Medical Laboratory Technician Program Accreditation

The two primary national accrediting bodies for medical laboratory technician programs are the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Programs that have earned this accreditation have met high standards of quality in facilities, curriculum, and faculty. This standard is maintained by requiring programs to submit a comprehensive self-study every five years.

Students should ensure the program they attend is NAACLS or ABHES accredited, or at a minimum regionally accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education, as this can be required in order to be eligible to sit for a national licensing exam.

On-Campus Medical Laboratory Technician Degree Programs

Arkansas State University – College of Nursing and Health Professions

The associate of applied science in clinical laboratory science at Arkansas State University College of Nursing and Health Professions prepares students for work as clinical laboratory technicians.

Students gain the skill necessary to handle blood, bodily fluids, and tissue samples safely, as well as how to use various chemical reagents to perform lab tests. Graduates have a keen understanding of ethical standards of practice, safety regulations, and regulatory requirements.

This full-time 24-month program includes four clinical rotations, so students gain the necessary hands-on experience to excel in this career. During these rotations at off-campus clinical sites, students will perform the essential functions of a medical laboratory technician, just as if they worked in the lab.

Admission to this program is selective, and students are evaluated on a points basis. Points are earned for prerequisite coursework GPA, work experience, proficiency in a second language, and letters of recommendation.

  • Location: Jonesboro, AR
  • Duration: 24 months
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $450 per credit

Des Moines Area Community College

Des Moines Area Community College offers an associate in applied science in medical laboratory technology. Offered each fall, this program includes clinical techniques, liberal arts, and general education to help students succeed in their careers as well as being well-rounded educationally. Required classes include urinalysis, anatomy and physiology, general chemistry, and psychology.

One highlight of this program is a six-month hospital assignment where students will work in a real lab. During this internship, students will learn how to perform complicated lab tests and translate their classroom knowledge into actual skills. The primary clinical sites are Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Iowa Lutheran, Broadlawns, and the Veterans Administration. Should a student wish to move back home, every effort is made to establish an internship at a hospital close to the student’s residence.

  • Location: Des Moines, IA
  • Duration: Five semesters
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $340 per credit

Delaware Technical Community College

With four on campus-semesters and one off-site clinical internship semester, the associate of science for medical laboratory technicians at Delaware Technical Community College prepares students to successfully start a career in this field. Competencies all students learn include clear communication skills, critical thinking, collaboration, ethical conduct, and scientific inquiry. During the required semester-long internship, students will perform routine laboratory procedures and report results to their supervisor and physicians to aid in diagnosing patients’ conditions.

Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the ASCP MLT exam. Since 2016, 100 percent of graduates of this program have passed their certification exam. This program is also part of the Connected Degrees program, allowing students to easily transfer the credits they completed for their associate’s to a bachelor’s program. Students who utilize Connected Degrees start in their junior year of their bachelor’s degree.

  • Location: Georgetown, DE
  • Duration: Five semesters
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $381.25 per credit

Shoreline Community College

Students have the option to complete either a one-year certificate or a two-year associate of science in medical laboratory technology at Shoreline Community College. The certificate program is designed for students who already have an associate’s and some understanding of medical laboratory technology. The associate of applied science is for students who are starting from scratch. Over 97 percent of students graduate from their program, and 100 percent pass the MLT ASCP certification within one year of graduation.

Courses required for both the certificate and associate programs include hematology, immunology, phlebotomy, and chemistry. The associate degree also requires general education coursework such as biology, English, and math. Credits earned in either program can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree should students pursue additional education.

  • Location: Shoreline, WA
  • Duration: One year for the certificate and two years for the associate’s
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $243.46 per credit

San Diego Miramar College

The medical laboratory technology program at San Diego Miramar College offers a certificate of achievement in medical laboratory technology as well as an associate in science in medical laboratory technology. Graduates of this program work in labs in hospitals, private clinics, testing centers, and clinical research organizations. Skills taught include specimen collecting, laboratory procedure, quality assurance, and interpreting results.

With only 24 students admitted per year, admission to this program is highly competitive. All completed applications are placed in a lottery in order to determine who can enroll in the program. Admission requirements include prerequisite coursework, a high school diploma or GED, and a minimum GPA. Due to California licensing laws, all students must obtain a Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT-1) license prior to completing their practicum studies.

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Duration: Two to three years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $336 per credit

Online or Hybrid Medical Laboratory Technician Degree Program

SUNY Broome Community College

The fully online format of the associate of applied science in clinical laboratory technology at SUNY Broome Community College can be completed in as little as three semesters. Since online students don’t have access to the laboratory facilities at SUNY, they must complete pre-clinical rotations at affiliated institutions to gain the skills necessary to successfully complete the required internship. Upon completing the program, students will have a minimum of 360 hours of clinical training in real laboratories.

In addition to classes in clinical laboratory technology, students must also complete general education classes such as college writing, chemistry, and statistics. Classes specific to this program include immunology, pathogenic microbiology, histological techniques, and diagnostic microbiology. All students must maintain a 2.0 GPA average to stay enrolled in the program.

  • Location: Binghamton, NY
  • Duration: Three to four semesters
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $424 per credit

Rasmussen University

In just 21 months, students can complete the associate of applied science for medical laboratory technicians at Rasmussen University. Offered as a hybrid program, students can take classes both on-campus and online. Courses students must take include chemistry, transfusion medicine, phlebotomy, and microbiology. Students can choose to complete their program at one of three campuses in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

One unique feature of Rasmussen is the Flex Choice options where, for $99 per attempt, students can take a test to demonstrate their competency in a subject and earn credit for an entire course. This competency-based education model allows students to complete their education quicker and cheaper than programs that require students to adhere to a curriculum.

  • Location: Green Bay, WI, Lake Elmo/Woodbury, MN, and Moorhead, MN
  • Duration: 21 months
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $310 per credit

Weber State University – Dumke College of Health Professions

Graduates of the online associate of applied science medical laboratory technician degree at Weber State University Dumke College of Health Professions are qualified to sit for the MLT certification through the ASCP. Students who complete this program can use the credits earned to continue their studies through Weber State’s bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science. All didactic classes are delivered online, and laboratory classes are completed in a laboratory local to the student.

To complete this program, students must complete 63 semester-hours of coursework in both general education and medical laboratory science. As with many medical laboratory technology programs, admission to this degree is competitive. Applicants must complete extensive prerequisite coursework in English, math, chemistry, organic biochemistry, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and epidemiology.

  • Location: Ogden, UT
  • Duration: Two to three years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $278 per credit

Barton Community College

Coursework in general education, life science, and medical laboratory science for the associate of applied science in medical laboratory technology at Barton Community College is offered entirely online. Graduates are prepared students to work in a variety of medical laboratories, including hospitals and private clinics. This 68-credit program can be completed in as little as two years, and graduates are eligible to sit for the ASCP MLT certification.

To complete the laboratory training side of this program, students must work with a cooperating laboratory near them. These laboratories provide supervision, hands-on training, and skill development. Students complete at least 16 weeks of training in pathogenic microbiology, hematology and coagulation, urinalysis and body fluids, and immunohematology at their laboratory.

  • Location: Great Bend, KS
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $150 per credit

Albany State University

The hybrid format of the associate of applied science in medical laboratory technology at Albany State University offers students lots of flexibility to complete their program. Graduates are eligible to sit for national licensing exams and are prepared to work in hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic laboratories.

The final semester of this program is a full-time externship where students work in a clinical laboratory. After receiving a thorough orientation, students participate in skills training at these clinical affiliate sites. Once training is completed, students continue to hone their skills through repeated practice in order to gain competency in general lab procedures. Rotations students complete include blood bank, hematology, microbiology, chemistry, phlebotomy, and body fluid analysis.

  • Location: Albany, GA
  • Duration: Four semesters
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $359.67 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Medical Laboratory Technician?

It generally takes two years of education after high school to become a medical laboratory technician. If a student has already completed general education requirements, the program can be completed in as little as a year.

How To Become a Medical Laboratory Technician – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

The first step to becoming a medical laboratory technician is completing high school or obtaining a GED, as most programs require this. Not only does a GED or diploma demonstrate a minimum level of education, but it also shows dedication towards completing a course of study. Students who want to pursue a career as a medical laboratory technician should focus on classes such as science, math, and psychology to help prepare them for further studies.

Step 2: Obtain an Associate’s Degree (Two Years)

While an associate degree is not required to enter this field, it is an industry standard and required for national certifications. Most students earn an associate’s of applied science in medical laboratory technology. However, some may earn an associate degree in a different field and complete their medical laboratory technology training via a one-year certificate program.

Step 3: Obtain Certification (Optional, Timelines Vary)

Certification is not required to work as a medical laboratory technician. However, it is required by many employers as it demonstrates a high level of competency in the field.

The primary certification agencies are the American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). More details about certification are found below.

Step 4: Obtain State Licensing if Required (Timelines Vary)

Currently, medical laboratory technicians are only required to obtain state licensure in California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia. More details about licensure are found below.

What Do Medical Laboratory Technicians Do?

Medical laboratory technicians work in various settings, including diagnostic laboratories, hospitals, physicians’ offices, blood banks, outpatient centers, and even higher education. Anywhere where there is a laboratory performing medical tests, you will find medical laboratory technicians.

Day-to-day tasks for medical laboratory technicians can vary based on the place of employment, level of education completed, and work experience. Typical job duties include:

  • Using laboratory equipment to analyze blood, urine, or tissue samples
  • Determining if there are abnormalities in the samples
  • Analyzing blood to determine blood type
  • Operating sophisticated lab equipment to perform complex analyses
  • Setting up samples for automated tests
  • Logging all test results
  • Consulting with physicians about findings

Medical Laboratory Technician Certifications & Licensure

Certification as a medical laboratory technician through either the American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) assures employers and patients that the medical laboratory technician has received adequate training and meets a high level of competency in the field.

To earn the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certification through the ASCP, candidates must qualify under ONE of the following four routes:

  • Have an associate degree (or equivalent number of credits) and have completed a NAACLS or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) accredited MLT program
  • Have an associates degree (or equivalent number of credits) and hold an ASCP CLA certification
  • Have an associates degree (or equivalent number of credits) and complete a 50-week U.S. military medical laboratory training course
  • Have an associate degree (or equivalent number of credits) and have at least three years of verifiable work experience in blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, and urinalysis/body fluids in an acceptable laboratory

In order to be eligible to sit for the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certification AMT, candidates meet ONE of the following eligibility routes:

  • Have an associate’s degree in medical laboratory technology from a regionally or nationally accredited institution
  • Have 60 semester-hours (or 90 quarter-hours) of college education with at least 25 hours in clinical laboratory sciences and complete a six month approved clinical laboratory experience
  • Complete a 50-week US military medical laboratory training program

Only 11 states currently require medical laboratory technicians to be licensed. They are

Currently, medical laboratory technicians are only required to obtain state licensure in California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Requirements vary by state but typically include a background check, a licensing fee, a completed application, completed education, and certification exam.

How Much Do Medical Laboratory Technicians Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), the 160,190 medical laboratory technicians in the US earn $41,700 per year on average. Here were the percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $26,010
  • 25th percentile: $31,250
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,950
  • 75th percentile: $49,920
  • 90th percentile: $61,720

Medical Laboratory Technicians Career Alternatives

Here are few alternatives to a career as a medical laboratory technician.

Become a Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technologists assist veterinarians with caring for sick or injured animals. They can perform medical tests, assist in surgery, give vaccinations, trim nails, and administer medications. They help keep careful records and may assist with billing or record keeping.

  • Typical Education: Associate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Association of Veterinary State Boards

Become a Registered Nurse

Nurses provide patient care, often under the supervision of a physician. Some nurses work in patient education or public health. They can work in various settings, including long-term care facilities, hospitals, clinics, schools, and government agencies.

  • Typical Education: Associate or bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)

Become a Phlebotomist

Most blood draws are performed by phlebotomists. The procedure they use is called venipuncture. The blood is then analyzed by laboratory technicians, and the results are used by physicians to make a diagnosis.

  • Typical Education: Certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), National Healthcareer Association (NHA), American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), National Phlebotomy Association, and American Medical Technologists
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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