Medical Laboratory Technician

A medical laboratory tech is a lab expert who works in testing things like tissue samples, body fluids and blood samples to help the doctor diagnose the patient. It is also important to check for any drugs in the patient’s body, checking for blood transfusion donors and looking for any parasites in the cells.

It is a role that is under the supervision of a physician or medical technologist, and it is a crucial component of the medical field. If working in this setting interests you, look into how to begin this challenging career.

How to Become Medical Laboratory Technician?

  1. Complete high school or get a GED. Take as many science courses as possible in high school, focusing on biology, chemistry and physics.
  2. Apply to an accredited clincial laboratory technician program. To become a technician, you only need to attain a certificate in 1 year or an associate’s degree in 2, and there are about 479 accredited institutes in the US to choose from, many of which are online. Look for a program that offers a strong clinical lab component and that will adequately prepare you to sit your certification exam.
  3. Complete your coursework and practical training. You will have to complete some general courses in things like sociology, psychology, ethics and communication, and then take specialized studies in phlebotomy, urinalysis, hematology, coagulation, immunization, physiology and microbiology. You will then practice your lab skills by getting clinical experience in a lab.
  4. Go for your certification. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Medical Technologist (AMT) both offer national certification exams, and although it is not mandatory in every state, being certified is appealing to employers because you are demonstrating your level of competency, which will therefore open more opportunities for you.
  5. Maintain your certification with continuing education. The amount of continuing education credits you will require varies based on the state you’re on and the level of work you are doing in the lab, so look into specific obligations.

Once you have completed all of your training and necessary certification, a medical laboratory tech is a position that is in high demand and is expected to increase by 10-20% in the next 8 years due to the rise in the senior population and the need for health care. Now is the perfect time to join this profession.

Requirements to Begin Training

Working in a lab to test body fluids, blood and tissue is a vital role in the diagnosis of patients, and if you pursue medical laboratory technician training, you can work under a doctor or technologist’s supervision providing this very important function.

It is necessary to help find blood donors, determine what bacteria is infecting the patient and to test for any medication in the system that could prohibit treatment.

There are many training programs to choose from and one of the only requirements to be accepted is to have completed your high school education or to have received a GED.

It is an advantage though if you prepare by taking additional science and math courses in school, like biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra, physical education and any other health sciences you can do.

Degree Options

The most common degree options in medical laboratory technician training are a 1 year certificate program or a 2 year associate’s degree course that you can get at a trade school or community college.

You can also pursuse these studies in accredited online programs. They will help you develop skills in analysis, principles of safety, developing procedures and quality assurance and control. You could also use them as a stepping stone to further yourself and become a medical laboratory technologist, whom the technician generally answers to.

A technologist performs more complex lab testing, and to become one, you will need a minimum of a 4 year bachelor’s degree. There are about 479 programs in the US that The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) accredits for technicians and technologists.


Your program curriculum will be a combination of classroom theory and lab practice. You will be studying things like microscopy, pathology, microbiology, immunology, chemistry and lab math. Additionally, you will need to learn phlebotomy, general anatomy, ethics, sociology, psychology and gain clinical experience in a lab.

Once complete, your state may or may not require you to become certified, so look into the requirements and then sit one of the national exams offered by The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) or the American Medical Technologist (AMT).

If you have gone through medical laboratory technician training, becoming certified is a smart step whether it is required or not, and you will then be an MLT or Certified medical laboratory technician. It is a draw to prospective employers and enables you to easily advance your career by furthering your education in the future.

Medical Lab Technician Exam

Those Medical Laboratory Technicians that would like to become certified will need to complete an accredited program of study and then pass the Medical Laboratory Technician Exam. This exam is offered by the National Credentialing Agency For Laboratory Personnel (NCA).

Applying For The Exam To Become Certified

When you are ready to take the Medical Lab Tech Exam and become certified, you will need to go to the NCA website and download the application. You should fill out the application and send in all of the necessary documents, as well as the $125 fee for the exam.

They will get back to you to confirm your eligibility within 6 weeks, and then you will have 90 days to schedule your exam at one of the 130 examination centers. If you don’t schedule your exam in time you will have to reapply and pay the fee again, so make sure to do this in a timely manner. You also need to be sure to get to the exam on time because those who are more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted and will have to reapply and repay the fee.

Examination Procedures

The Medical Laboratory Technician Exam is administered via computer. You can take a short practice test before beginning the examination so that you can get used to how the computer test works, and then you will have a total of three hours to complete the exam, which consists of 30 pretest questions and 150 examination question.

The two types of questions are mixed together, so you won’t know which questions are graded and which are being tested out for future exams. If you have not finished the questions in the allotted time the computer will stop the exam at the end of the three hour time limit. You can have the time clock show on the bottom of the screen if you wish to help you keep on track with the time.

Renewing Your Certification

Those who have passed the Medical Laboratory Technician Exam and become certified have two options for keeping their certification current. They can either retake the exam when their current certification is expiring, or they can complete 36 hours of continuing education before their certification expires. You can find a list of accepted continuing education providers on the NCA website. University coursework also counts towards continuing education, as do publications, so there are a variety of options for completing the required amount of continuing education to keep your certification current.

Some states require that laboratory personnel have a license. In these states, a Medical Laboratory Technician License or clinical laboratory technologist license is required if you would like a job in this field. The states that normally require licenses for this type of personnel include California, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Getting Your Associates Degree Through An Accredited Program

The first step to getting your license is to attend an accredited educational program. Usually these programs are for an associates degree in this field. Some states have their own lists of approved programs, but many will accept any of the accredited programs from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) list which is available on their website.

There are hundreds of programs available, including some in almost every state. For those without programs in their area, there are a few programs listed on the website that offer a distance learning option as well.

Taking The National Exam To Get Certified

Once you have gotten your associates degree from an accredited program, then the next step towards getting your Medical Laboratory Technician License is to apply for and take the national exam to become certified through the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel. Most states will accept this exam for licensing purposes.

In a few states, such as California, you must pass a state licensing exam as well as the national exam in order to get your license. California also does not accept licenses from other states, so anyone wishing to work in this field in California needs to get their California license.

Applying For Your License

Once you have your degree and your certification, getting your license usually involves filling out an application, submitting the required backup materials and fees, and sometimes a photo as well. If you meet all the requirements for a license you will get it after they have reviewed the materials and made sure that everything is complete.

Once you have received your Medical Laboratory Technician License you are ready to look for a job. With the shortage of qualified personnel for this type of position, this shouldn’t be too difficult. The majority of the positions are available are in hospitals, so this is a good place to start looking for a Medical Laboratory Technician position, though there are positions in other types of organizations as well that are worth trying for if you see a good opportunity.

Job Outlook for Lab Techs

As with any other health related career, the number of Medical Laboratory Technician Vacancies is expected to continue to grow, and the job prospects for Medical Laboratory Technicians are expected to be excellent. This means that for qualified professionals it shouldn’t be any trouble for them to find enough vacancies for them to apply for. Although testing is becoming more computerized, there are more tests being ordered and people are always leaving the profession, creating a lot of openings for qualified techs.

Where To Look For Medical Lab Tech VacanciesThere are a lot of good places to look for Medical Laboratory Tech jobs. These include the newspaper want ads, websites for hospitals which list job listings, and internet job search engines. Some hospitals post job listings in their human resources departments as well as online and in the want ads, so it might be worth it to check out whether this is the case with the hospitals near you as well, especially if you don’t have good internet access or if you are not as comfortable searching for jobs this way.

The majority of Medical Laboratory Technician Vacancies are for work in general medical and surgical hospitals; medical and diagnostic laboratories; offices of physicians; colleges, universities, and professional schools; and other ambulatory health care services. These are the places where it will be easiest to find employment. If you wish to work in a different type of institution these types of positions are less common.

Requirements For Work In This Field

In order to qualify for one of the Medical Laboratory Technician jobs available, you need to have at least completed an educational program that results in a certificate, though accredited programs resulting in an associates degree are preferred. Taking the exam to become certified will also give you more of a chance of quickly finding employment in this field.

In some states you need to become certified and then get a state license in order to qualify for Medical Lab Tech jobs, so be sure to check the regulations in your state. Most likely if this is necessary you would have learned about it in your training program so you are probably aware if this applies to you in your state.

Some websites that you might want to check out for Medical Lab Technician Vacancies include MedTravellers, HotJobs, Indeed, SimplyHired, MedicalWorkers, and the websites of any hospitals that are in your area. This should be a good starting point in your search for Medical Laboratory Technician Vacancies.

Salaries for Medical Lab Techs

Whenever you are considering a career or a career change, it is useful to check out the salary that you might be able to earn so that you can get a good idea whether or not the job will pay enough to support you. This information is also nice for people who are already doing a job, so they can see where they fall in the salary range and whether they might be able to get more somewhere else or from their current employer.

Education and Experience Factors

The Salary Of A Medical Lab Tech depends, as do most types of salaries, on a lot of different factors, including experience, where you live and work, and the type of institution where you work. Education and certification can also make a difference in the Salary Of A Medical Laboratory Technician as well, so it pays to improve your educational level and get certified.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual Salary Of A Medical Laboratory Tech was $36,110 as of May 2007. The top ten percent of techs were making more than $52,100 and the bottom ten percent of techs were making less than $22,670. This is a very broad range of salaries, so it doesn’t hurt to do what you can to get closer to the top of the range.

On average experience definitely plays a part in the Salary Of A Medical Lab Tech according to PayScale. Medical Lab Techs with one to four years of experience make a median annual salary of $30,916, while those with twenty or more years of experience make a median annual salary of $42,637.

The anual mean salary of a medical laboratory technician also varies based on the type of industry you work in. The top employers for Medical Lab Techs (and the salary they pay) are general medical and surgical hospitals ($37,600), medical and diagnostic laboratories ($33,500), offices of physicians ($34,560), colleges, universities and professional schools ($36,400), and other ambulatory health care services ($31,710).

Location Can Affect Your Salary As A Medical Lab Technician

Different areas of the country also have a different mean annual Salary Of A Medical Lab Tech. The highest paying areas are Rhode Island ($51,970), Alaska ($45,110), Connecticut ($44,690), District of Columbia ($43,030), and New York ($42,220). However, when considering the different rates of pay in different areas of the country, you need to be sure to take into account the different costs of living so that you can get a good idea of the purchasing power of that salary so you can see if it really is a high salary for the area.