What Does a Medical Technologist Do?

what-does-a-medical-technologist-doA medical technologist, also known as a clinical laboratory technologist, a medical laboratory technologist or a clinical laboratory scientist, analyzes fluids and tissue from the human body.

A laboratory technologist analyzes blood for HIV/AIDS, cancer and other diseases, but this individual may also perform benign analyses, such as pre-marital blood tests. Though medical technologists do not often interact directly with patients in a clinical setting, doctors heavily rely on the data they receive from these individuals for diagnosing and treating their patients.

The clinical laboratory scientist must be proficient with complex electronic and computer equipment, as well as expensive, specialized devices, such as cell counters and high powered microscopes.

A Clinical Laboratory Technologist’s Work

A clinical laboratory technologist will examine human tissue and blood samples under a microscope to discover cancer cells, parasites, bacteria and other microorganisms. However, these individuals also provide their services for testing blood for drugs and alcohol levels and matching blood for transfusions. If you are required to take a blood-based drug test for employment or probation, chances are your sample is analyzed by a clinical laboratory technician.

If you are stopped while driving and the officer suspects that you have been drinking but you refuse a breath test, you may be required to provide a blood sample to the police. This blood sample is likely analyzed by a clinical lab tech. Clinical lab technologists also validate the tests they use to analyze blood and fluids to improve the accuracy and efficacy of these tests.

Educational Requirements

At a minimum, a clinical lab tech must have a bachelors degree, most likely in a scientific area. In addition to the degree, clinical lab technologists must complete an accredited clinical laboratory technician program that is certified by the National Accrediting Academy of Clinical Laboratory Science, also known by their acronym NAACLS.

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High school students who aspire to become a clinical laboratory technologist should take and excel in key scientific subjects like chemistry and biology. However, students should also focus on computer science and math, as well. For those entering college, science majors like microbiology, biology or biochemistry are excellent choices to prepare the student for a career as a clinical laboratory technologist. After obtaining the bachelors degree, the student should select an accredited Clinical Laboratory Science program to complete his preparation.

After completing the educational requirements, the student can become certified by the ASPS. This national certification is renewed every three years to ensure the technologist is up-to-date with his knowledge and technical methods. (Source: American Medical Technologists)

For those seeking a career in medical technology that does not require a four-year degree, consider certification as a medical laboratory technician. Vocational schools offer programs to prepare students for this career path.

Salaries for the Medical Technologist

The median income for a clinical laboratory technologist in 2014 was $23.71 per hour or $49,310 per year. This same year, the number of jobs for this profession in the United States was 328,200. The outlook for this profession in the coming years supports a 16 percent growth rate, much higher than many other professions. Approximately half of all medical laboratory technologists and technicians are employed by hospitals. The other half work in medical clinics, physicians offices and diagnostic laboratories.

(Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics)