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Lab Technician Training and Job Description

Medical lab technicians play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and various conditions. Accurate and timely results depend on these highly skilled technicians in the labs at doctors offices, hospitals, and clinics.

Interested in becoming a medical laboratory technician? Learn more about lab technicians, including what their training entails, different specializations you can pursue as a lab tech, and more.

What Does a Medical Laboratory Technician Do?

Also known as clinical laboratory technicians, medical lab technicians occupy an important role in the healthcare industry. Medical lab technicians are specialists who conduct various laboratory tests and procedures, interpret results, and report those results to the physician.

There are other responsibilities associated with being a medical lab technician. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Test and analyze samples taken including tissues and bodily fluids like urine, blood, etc.
  • Prepare samples for analysis by centrifuging, separating, and/or labeling them accurately.
  • Conduct the necessary laboratory tests to detect abnormalities and diseases by operating equipment like microscopes, cell counters, etc.
  • Record data and update patient records in an accurate and timely manner.
  • Consult with physicians, nurses, and patients on findings, diagnostics, and necessary next steps to be taken in treatment.

If you are someone interested in laboratory technology, medical diagnostics, and treatment plans, you may enjoy working as a medical lab technician. Learn about what lab technician training entails.

Or, find a school near you offering excellent medical lab technician programs!

What’s Medical Lab Technician Training Like?

A medical lab technician training program typically involves a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Successful medical lab technicians tend to have strong foundations in chemistry, biology, and even math.

While many medical lab technicians have bachelor’s degrees, there are other ways to get your education. These include certificate or associate degree programs. You’ll find these programs offered at either community colleges or vocational schools.

Length of Training

The length of your training as a medical lab technician depends on the program you enroll in. For instance, if you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree, your education will generally take 4 years to complete, plus any time it takes for licensure or certifications if your state requires it.

However, if you are enrolled in a certificate or degree program, your training will take closer to one to two years. Not only do certificate and degree programs take less time to complete, but they are generally more affordable when compared to programs at 4-year universities. Depending on your state requirements, you may need to get certified before practicing professionally.

Classes Taught in a Medical Lab Tech Program

Medical lab technician programs often involve a combination of lab work and classroom learning. Whether you’re in a certificate program, or getting your bachelor’s or associate degree, your training will likely involve some hands-on experience in an approved clinical setting, as well.

Classes you can expect to take in a lab technician training program include but are not limited to:

  • Laboratory basics
  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Immunology
  • Clinical chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Phlebotomy
  • Urinalysis

Of course, your exact classes can vary depending on your school or program.

Specializations for Medical Lab Technicians

Some students choose a field of specialty to work in. These specializations can include:

  • Blood banking: Techs specializing in blood banking prep blood, classify it by blood type, and/or prepare it for transfusions.
  • Clinical chemistry: Techs specializing in clinical chemistry analyze chemical and hormonal contents of certain bodily fluids.
  • Cytotechnologists: Cytotechnologists prepare and examine cells under a microscope, searching for any abnormalities that could indicate cancerous growth.
  • Microbiology: Techs specializing in microbiology examine specific samples for bacteria or other microorganisms.
  • Molecular biology: Techs specializing in molecular biology perform protein and nucleic acid testing, like gene sequencing, on cell samples.

Hands-On Training for Lab Technicians

Hands-on laboratory experience is a critical part of any training program. It is likely classroom hours will also involve some sort of hands-on training, practicing certain procedures under the guidance of experienced instructors.

Clinical rotations, on the other hand, are mandatory and will usually take place toward the end of your program. During clinicals, prospective laboratory technicians will undertake these rotations in a clinical setting, refining their skills and certain procedures learned in class.

Do Medical Lab Technicians Need to Get Certified?

Upon completing your program, you may be eligible to sit for certain certification exams. Not every state requires lab technicians to be certified – although if you’re specializing in a certain field you may need it. In addition, pursuing a certification can also make prospects more attractive candidates in the job market. Be sure to check with your specific state requirements.

Completing a lab technician program can prepare you for an exciting role in the healthcare industry. Patient care depends on the accuracy and timeliness of technologists and their work.

If you are someone interested in medicine, and are looking for a way to make a positive impact in the lives of others, you may love becoming a medical lab technician.

Pay and Job Outlook of Medical Lab Technicians

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical laboratory technicians earned an average of $62,870 in 2023, with the top 10 percent making closer to $93,900 or more. Demand for medical laboratory technicians is expected to increase 5 percent by 2032, which is slightly faster than the national average for all occupations.

Take the Next Step: Find a Medical Tech Program Near You!

Medical laboratory technicians enjoy satisfying careers and work in many different settings. If you’re interested in becoming a medical laboratory technician, find a school now!

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