Phlebotomist

In order to properly diagnose and treat a patient, doctors often order lab tests. When a patient visits a lab they are attended to by a phlebotomist, whose job it is to draw their blood in the correct amount and into the right containers, label it, and make sure it gets transported appropriately for testing. And labs aren’t the only place phlebotomists work. They work in blood banks drawing blood for donations,  they also can work for life insurance companies to perform blood draws for testing, and long-term care facilities helping doctors monitor patient’s well-being. 

Education requirements for phlebotomists vary and professionals entering the field can choose to complete on-the-job training or a course with clinical practice. Either path provides avenues for national certification from any number of organizations once the relevant work experience has been completed. Students pursuing a phlebotomy program should make sure the program is accredited by a regional or national accrediting body such as the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).

Careers in phlebotomy are growing very quickly with an expected over 22,800 new jobs created nationally between 2019 and 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020). Professionals in this field earn an average of $36,480 per year.

Phlebotomists are essential members of any healthcare team and they are celebrated and recognized each year in February during Phlebotomist Recognition Week. In 2021, this week was observed from February 15th to the 19th. The American Medical Technologist (AMT) association sponsors this week and recognizes outstanding phlebotomists with their Registered Phlebotomist (RPT) of the Year award.  Phlebotomists are encouraged to submit their stories online on the AMT website for a chance to be featured on AMT social media. Resource guides and AMT branded phlebotomists gear are available on the website as well. 

Keep reading to learn more about phlebotomy including licensing options, typical job duties, and top schools offering phlebotomy programs.

Phlebotomist Specializations & Degree Types

Formal training is not required to become a phlebotomist. Aspiring phlebotomists can complete on-the-job training or complete a certification program offered at numerous programs across the country. Upon completing requisite work experience or a phlebotomy course, students can apply for certification as a phlebotomy technician at one of the three certifying agencies. 

Admissions Requirements for Phlebotomist Programs

To be admitted to a phlebotomist program, prospective students generally will need to have completed high school or obtained a GED, although there are exceptions. Many programs require attending a mandatory in-person orientation prior to submitting an application. To be eligible for admission students will need to supply proof of CPR certification, a recent TB test result, and immunization records. Some programs also require a medical check-up.

Phlebotomist Program Accreditation

The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) accredits phlebotomist programs. The NAACLS is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a national organization that monitors and certifies accrediting bodies.

On-Campus Phlebotomist Degree Programs

Moraine Valley Community College

Students can earn a phlebotomy technician certificate at Moraine Valley Community College in just two semesters. This program trains students in all the technical and clinical aspects of collecting specimens and transporting samples. Upon completing the lecture course, students may enroll in the clinical seminar and clinical experience. 

Moraine Valley boasts an outstanding 98 percent student pass rate of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) phlebotomy technician exam within three years of graduation. Admission requirements for this program include a high school diploma or GED and a prerequisite course in medical terminology. There are additional requirements to be able to complete the clinical practice, which include passing a drug test, proof of current immunizations, a recent TB test result, CPR training, and a background check. 

  • Location: Tinley Park, IL
  • Duration: Two semesters
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $361 per credit

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College

In addition to learning how to collect specimens and maintain patient data, students in the phlebotomy technician program at  Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College are required to develop strong communication skills. Graduates of this program are employed at hospitals, clinics, and labs. 

This program is in high demand, and spots are limited, so students must contact an academic advisor prior to submitting an application. The practicum course may be taken concurrently with the lecture course so students can complete all 12 required credits in just one semester. Students should expect to attend classes four days a week and supervised clinical practice three to four days per week. 

  • Location: Asheville, NC
  • Duration: One semester
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $4,288 total

Austin Community College

The phlebotomy technician program at Austin Community College can be completed as a stand-alone certificate or as a stepping stone for the Medical Laboratory Technologist program. This one-semester program is intensive and requires students to complete both the didactic course and the clinical experience at the same time. For 2019 and 2020, this program has a 100 percent pass rate on the ASCP BOC exam and a 100 percent job placement rate. 

Due to the rigorous nature of this program, students must attend classes on campus and full-time. Working while completing this program is not recommended. Due to the high number of applicants for this program, candidates are placed on a waitlist. Once a spot opens up in the program, candidates are offered conditional admission, and they must complete a background check, provide proof of immunizations, including a flu vaccine, and supply documentation of personal health insurance. 

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Duration: One semester
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $2,728 for the entire program

Carolinas College of Health Sciences

At the Carolinas College of Health Sciences, students can complete a fast-paced 10 to 14-week program in phlebotomy. Students will learn both skin puncture and venipuncture techniques. Coursework is divided between classroom lectures, lab work, and clinical experiences. All clinical experiences take place within Atrium Health facilities. 

Enrollment for this program is open three times a year, and students can start their studies in either the fall, spring, or summer semester. Over the past three years, 100 percent of students have graduated from this program, passed the Carolinas College of Health Sciences board certification exam, and had a job placement within six months of graduation. Admission requirements include pass the Scholastic Level Exam (SLE) with a score of at least 14, have a 2.0 college of high school GPA, and attend an information session.  

  • Location: Charlotte, NC
  • Duration: 10 to 14 weeks
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $625 for the entire program

Phillips Community College

In just two semesters, students can complete a technical certificate in phlebotomy at Phillips Community College. The first semester consists of math, composition, computer, anatomy, and medical terminology courses. During the second semester, students take an intensive phlebotomy course as well as complete a skill class including clinical experiences. Courses can be applied towards an associate’s degree should students wish to pursue further education. 

Graduates of this program will know medical terminology, understand infection control, be able to follow standard procedures, have the skills to perform venipunctures, and demonstrate strong communication skills.  To enroll in this program, students must complete both a background check and a drug screening. 

  • Location: Helena, AR
  • Duration: Two semesters
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $136 per credit

Online & Hybrid Phlebotomist Degree Programs

Alvin Community College

While the hands-on clinical component of phlebotomy programs makes 100 percent online programs not feasible, Alvin Community College offers a hybrid program that allows students to complete the classroom components online and at their own pace. Students are required to visit campus four times over the course of the semester for labs to learn to do venipuncture and clinical hours must be completed in a clinic or hospital. 

As part of this program, students learn how to collect specimens, use vacuum collection devices, select a syringe, label and transport specimens, as well as relevant medical terminology.  For admission, students need to have a high school diploma or GED, pass a background check, provide proof of immunizations, and have current CPR certification. 

  • Location: Alvin, TX
  • Duration: Two semesters
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $820 per class

South Central College

The hybrid phlebotomy technician program at South Central College combines online learning with face-to-face labs. Some courses require that students visit campus once a week while other courses are completely online. The internship class comprises 100 supervised clinical hours at an affiliated hospital or clinic.  

Students are able to complete all 16 required credits in just one semester. Courses include medical terminology, interpersonal communication, and phlebotomy skills. The hybrid format affords students the flexibility to work as they complete this intensive program. 

  • Location: North Mankato, MN
  • Duration: One semester
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $219.87 per credit

University of Alaska Anchorage – School of Allied Health

The Occupational Endorsement Certificate (OEC) from the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Allied Health can be completed online, so long as the student has secured an approved clinical site. In order to participate in the distance learning option, students must reside outside of Anchorage, Eagle River, and the Mat-Su Valley. The nine-credit program can be completed in two semesters of part-time coursework. 

Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for national certification examinations. Admission requirements to this program include a GED or high school diploma, complete immunization records, proof of medical insurance, Basic Life Support for Health Care Providers (BLS-HCP) issued by the American Heart Association, and a background check. 

  • Location: Anchorage, AK
  • Duration: Two semesters
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $789 per credit-hour

Tulsa Community College

While most phlebotomy courses are offered on campus at Tulsa Community College, summer semester courses can be completed through distance learning. In addition to learning how to draw, store, and transport blood samples, students in this program will learn the basics of working in a clinical laboratory, including how to process specimens. 

With only 12 students per class, admission to this program can be competitive. Therefore, applicants should work to exceed the admissions requirements in order to improve their chances of being admitted to this program. The minimum requirements are a high school diploma or GED, demonstrated reading and writing abilities, and a background check. 

  • Location: Tulsa, OK
  • Duration: One semester
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)
  • Tuition: $337.55 per credit

University of Tennessee-Martin

The University of Tennessee-Martin offers numerous online healthcare programs, including a phlebotomy technician program. Graduates of this program will know how to perform venipunctures to collect blood specimens, maintain a sterile work environment, and take necessary safety precautions. They will also have a firm grasp of medical terminology, quality assurance, legal issues, and confidentiality.

Students who complete this program work in diagnostic laboratories, hospitals, clinics, and even insurance carriers. Part of this program is completing an externship at a local clinic in order to gain hands-on experience. Students who complete the externship are eligible to sit for several of the national certification exams. 

  • Location: Martin, TN
  • Duration: One semester
  • Accreditation:  Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $1,299 for the entire program

How Long Does it Take to Become a Phlebotomist?

Post high school graduation, it can take as little as eight weeks to complete a phlebotomy course and begin entry-level work. Most certification programs require at least one year of work experience in order to be eligible. 

How To Become a Phlebotomist  – Step-by-Step Guide

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

Phlebotomy programs require that students have completed high school or obtain a GED. Completing high school demonstrates dedication to completing a program as well as proof of having a minimum level of education. Students who wish to pursue a career in phlebotomy should take courses in health, science, and math to prepare them for further studies. 

Step 2a: Complete a Phlebotomy Technician Program (Eight Weeks to Six Months)

Upon graduating from high school or obtaining a GED, students may enroll directly into a phlebotomy technician program. These courses take anywhere from eight week up to six months of study depending on the intensity of the course and the classes required. Students should select a program that has been regionally accredited or accredited by the NAACLS as this guarantees a high standard of education.  

Step 2b: Obtain Entry-Level Work (Timelines Vary)

In lieu of attending a phlebotomy technician program, students may obtain a job as a phlebotomist in all but four states and gain on-the-job training. There are numerous employers who will hire without work experience, although certification is generally preferred. 

Step 3:  Acquire Work Experience (One Year)

All phlebotomist certifying bodies require proof of work experience, regardless of if a certificate or degree program was completed. Requirements for those without certificates are higher and prospective applicants should verify requirements with their certifying agency. Generally, at least one year of work experience is required.  

Step 4: Apply for National Certification (Timelines Vary)

Once the required work experience has been obtained, a phlebotomist may apply for national certification at one of the top three national certification organizations, which are profiled in the certification section below. The top certification programs require testing, proof of work experience, and continuing education to maintain certification. See the certification section below for detailed information on credentialing.

What Do Phlebotomists Do?

Phlebotomists are an essential part of any healthcare team. They are typically overseen by other medical professionals in the clinic, hospital, and lab. Typical job duties include:

  • Drawing a patient’s blood
  • Verifying patient identity to ensure proper labeling
  • Reading and following orders on how much blood to draw and how to prepare it for testing
  • Label blood for testing
  • Soothing patients’ worries over the procedure
  • Entering patient information in charts or on a computer
  • Maintaining a tidy workspace including restocking necessary tools, syringes, vials, tests tubes, and bandages

Phlebotomist Certifications & Licensure

There are three top phlebotomist certifying boards. They are:

  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
  • American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC)

While there are other licensing boards, these three have been recognized by the Center for Phlebotomy Education as being the best because they require on-the-job experience, testing, and continuing education. 

State licensure is currently only required in Louisiana, California, Washington, and Nevada. Requirements vary by state but all include at least a certificate. Also, Washington requires phlebotomists to be certified medical assistants.

How Much Do Phlebotomists Make?

Phlebotomists make on average $36,480 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019). The 128,290 working phlebotomists in the United States had the following salary percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $26,000
  • 25th percentile: $29,860
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,510
  • 75th percentile: $41,490
  • 90th percentile: $49,750

Phlebotomist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a phlebotomist. 

Become a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants work in dental clinics and perform various clinical and administrative tasks, including preparing rooms for procedures, sterilizing equipment, scheduling appointments, maintaining client records, and assisting dentists. Some dental assistants receive additional training so they can take x-rays. They are essential to any smooth-running dental office. 

  • Typical Education: One-year certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)

Become a Medical Assistant

Medical assistants work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and outpatient clinics. Their daily tasks can range from administrative to clinical, based on their place of employment. Typically, medical assistants provide direct patient care under the supervision of a physician or nurse. While most medical assistants complete a post-secondary certificate program, some can enter the workforce directly after high school and receive on-the-job training. 

  • Typical Education: One-year certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Medical Technologists (AMT), National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists listen to recording physicians or other healthcare workers and convert them into written reports. They may also be required to edit or format reports. Some medical transcriptionists review documents created with text to speech to verify accuracy. They must have a strong understanding of medical terminology and abbreviations. 

  • Typical Education: One-year certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization:  Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity
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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