Clinical lab technologists and technicians are an important part of the medical profession. They must take collected human blood, specimens and tissue to labs for analysis. Through tests and microscopic analysis, these professionals are able to identify pathogens and other harmful bacteria and parasites. These are the professionals who are also responsible for conducting analysis of drug tests. Their job requires accuracy, attention to detail and the ability to concentrate on tasks for a long period of time. Some technologists and technicians spend more time on their feet, while others spend more time sitting; these factors are dependent on the type of lab.
As noted on reports from the Bureau of Labors and Statistics in 2008, the average annual salary of laboratory technologists was $53,500. The 50% median of this group earned between $44,560 and $63,420. The 10th percentile averaged salaries less than $36,180, while the 90th percentile averaged annual salaries higher than $74,680. The highest-paying jobs on average were found in federal executive branches, followed by general and surgical hospitals, medical and diagnostic labs, physician offices and colleges, universities or other schools ranking last.*
The average annual salary for clinical laboratory technicians was $35,380 in 2008. The median 50% averaged salaries between $28,420 and $44,310. Average salaries of the 10th percentile were less than $23,480; the average annual salary of the 90th percentile was higher than $53,520. General and surgical hospitals were ranked the highest-paying jobs, followed by colleges, universities and professional schools, then physician offices, medical and diagnostic labs and ambulatory health care services and facilities.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
These professionals have a wide array of tasks; which tasks are included in a job description will depend on the type of facility a clinical laboratory technologist or technician is employed in. Collection of blood, body fluids and tissue samples are part of the job. After these specimens are collected, they must be carefully marked and not mistaken with others. Once they have arrived in the laboratory, they are examined and analyzed closely. Fluids such as urine or saliva may be tested for drugs or other substances. Urine is also used to test for drugs; women who may be pregnant usually receive a urine test to determine if they are pregnant or not. Samples of urine are also analyzed for abnormal pH balances, glucose, blood cells or signs of infection. Blood is the most common type of fluid that is analyzed in these labs. Counting types of blood cells and taking note of any gross physical appearances that are abnormal in the fluid are necessary.
Once a laboratory technologist or technician has examined the specimen and retrieved the necessary data, the information must be double-checked for accuracy, then sent to the physician who ordered it. Testing equipment today is very sophisticated and complex. While many of these new machines are user-friendly, they do require proper care and knowledge before use. These professionals must maintain their equipment, keep the temperatures at appropriate levels in the lab and ensure that any specimens that require refrigeration are kept cool. Maintaining a sterile and well-lit work area is also an important requirement in this profession. Clinical laboratory technicians will be more limited in what they are allowed to do, while technologists generally have a more broad scope of practice.
Training and Education Requirements
To become a clinical laboratory technician, an Associate degree is required. Most community colleges and vocational schools offer this program. Full-time students, or those who are enrolled for 12-credit-hour semesters, should expect to spend about two years or four semesters in school. Some programs have a mixed method of delivery, combining online classes with campus-based classes. Several courses will require students to perform hands-on work and lab experiments, so students should avoid any program claiming to be 100% online.
Prospective students seeking a clinical laboratory technologist degree will need to complete a Bachelor degree with an emphasis in Medical Technology. Earning this degree takes about four years for full-time students. This program also requires a balanced mixture of classroom and laboratory learning. Students will learn about human anatomy, pathology and technological equipment used for testing. Before enrolling in any program, Associate or Bachelor, students should verify its accreditation status with The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
Certification is voluntary, but most employers will look more favorably upon a technologist or technician who is certified. Programs for certification are offered by various professional associations. Some examples are The American Medical Technologists, The American Society for Clinical Pathology and The National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel. Several others exist, but usually certification with one or two associations is sufficient. Although it is not
As mentioned, there are several different associations for these professionals, due to the fact that associations provide licensing. In addition to licensing, professional associations also provide continuing education resources, important news and information and connections to thousands of other professionals with valuable advice. Two more associations not listed previously are The Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, The Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts.
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