How to Become a Medical Laboratory Technician
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How to Become a Medical Laboratory Technician

If you have interest in science and are extremely detail-oriented, a career as a Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) may be right for you.

If you have an interest in science and are extremely detail-oriented, a career as a medical laboratory technician (MLT) may be right for you. Though they work behind the scenes, MLTs play a vital role in the quality of a patient’s healthcare by helping to diagnose and prevent disease. Read on to learn more about what it takes to become an MLT, how to get certified and the job outlook for this career.

What Does a Medical Laboratory Technician Do?

Medical laboratory technicians must have good analytical judgment and the ability to work under pressure. Close attention to detail is also essential for medical laboratory technicians because small differences or changes in test substances or numerical readouts can be crucial to a diagnosis. Manual dexterity and normal color vision are highly desirable, and with the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment, computer skills are important.

 

MLTs collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue and other substances. Their duties include less complex routine tests and laboratory procedures, such as:

  • Preparing specimens for testing
  • Analyzing body fluids such as blood, urine and tissue samples, and recording normal or abnormal findings
  • Using automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests at the same time
  • Working under the supervision of medical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers

Where Do MLTs Work?

Medical laboratory technicians often work in hospitals, but they can also work in labs and doctors’ offices.

The Path to Becoming a Medical Laboratory Technician

Most MLTs have an associate degree from a community or junior college, a vocational or technical school, or the Armed Forces. Technicians who learned their skills on the job must also meet the educational requirements and necessary semester hours of training. 

 

Choosing an Accredited Program

Nationally recognized agencies that accredit medical laboratory technician programs include agencies such as the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). It is important to consider whether a program is accredited by one of these bodies when choosing a school because completion of an accredited program may be required for certification. 

Obtaining Licensure and Getting Certified 

Some states also require MLTs to be licensed or registered, and many employers prefer applicants who are certified by a recognized professional association, such as AMT. Earning certification indicates that the medical laboratory technician meets certain standards of competence. Choosing a certifying body is just as important as choosing a school or program. When you choose a certification that is rigorous and practical, you are showing employers that they can trust your skills and knowledge. 

 

To get certified through AMT, you must meet certain eligibility criteria and pass an exam. Those who meet the requirements have an excellent chance of passing the certification exam. If you are interested in becoming certified through AMT as an MLT visit our Medical Laboratory Technician page to determine if you are eligible.

 

Information on licensure is available from state departments of health or boards of occupational licensing.

Medical Laboratory Technician Career Advancement 

Medical laboratory technicians can advance and become technologists through additional education and experience. Technologists may advance to supervisory positions in laboratory work or may become chief technologists or laboratory managers in hospitals. Manufacturers of home diagnostic testing kits and laboratory equipment and supplies also seek experienced technologists to work in product development, marketing and sales. Professional certification, specialization and/or a graduate degree in medical technology, one of the biological sciences, chemistry, management or education usually speeds advancement.

Medical Laboratory Technician Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians held about 335,500 jobs in 2020. Employment of medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians is expected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. 

 

An increase in the aging population will lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures. Medical laboratory technicians will be needed to use and maintain the equipment necessary for diagnosis and treatment.

Medical Laboratory Technician Salary

According to The American Society for Clinical Pathology, the average annual wage of staff-level medical laboratory technicians was about $48,235 in 2019. A supervisor or technical supervisor averaged about $56,638 annually in 2019. In general, salaries are higher in a hospital setting than in physician offices.

Want to Learn More?

Check out our blog post on the importance of medical laboratory professionals on the health care team.

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