A career as a Medical Lab Technician (MLT) is a rewarding and important job. With plenty of opportunity in the medical field, lab techs are highly-skilled professionals with potential to work in a variety of facilities. The role of a lab technician requires positive and supportive cooperation with other medical professionals, such as physicians, to ensure full and complete patient care.
As a lab technician, your primary responsibilities will include performing tests to detect disease. These tests are conducted on patients’ bodily fluids and tissue cells. Using scientific approaches, the lab tech is able to determine any abnormalities.
Lab techs serve in a helpful and supportive role to physicians seeking to understand their patients’ existing and ongoing conditions. The work a Medical Lab Technician does can directly result in the doctor’s ability to diagnose and cure a number of different conditions.
Further specialization can be obtained as a lab tech in the areas of microbiology, immunology, and human chemistry. In either generalized or specialized work, the lab tech has a vital role in helping doctors diagnose serious conditions so they can determine the correct method of treatment for their patients as quickly as possible. Lab techs also have an important role in the prevention and management of conditions through early detection.
With so much diversity and impact, it’s easy to see why becoming a lab technician is a rewarding job for the right person. Though it requires technical education and ongoing skills development, the right candidate will have a lifelong career in a field with growing demand.
STEPS TO BECOMING A LAB TECHNICIAN
Medical Lab Technicians can be fully trained and employed by completing a specialized two-year Associate’s degree program that covers all the requirements needed to obtain employment. In addition to the education program, Medical Lab Technicians can choose from a number of different career paths, certifications, and even continued education opportunities for future career advancement.
If you are interested in the exciting, scientific, and clinical role of this career field, here’s how to become a lab technician.
1. DETERMINE IF BECOMING A LAB TECHNICIAN IS RIGHT FOR YOU.
Like most long-term and skills-based careers, it is important to match the right candidates with the right role. This ensures long-term success and engagement in any given career. The job of a lab technician is best suited for those who are sympathetic, willing to help others, and thrive in fast-paced environments.
Lab techs are professionals who respect patient privacy and uphold integrity of the specific scientific approaches. Attention to detail and personal accountability are also excellent characteristics to have in this role. Much of the Medical Lab Technician’s role is in the ability to keep accurate records. Consistency, dependability, and organizational skills are vital elements to being a successful lab tech.
Background education and experience in technology, software, and computer programs is a tremendous asset as this role requires the use of data analysis systems. A Medical Lab Technician must also be someone who is willing to keep up-to-date with the advancements in the medical field.
If you feel you have the right personality and attitude to fulfill these roles, then you can begin your next step in becoming a lab technician.
2. OBTAIN A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA WITH NECESSARY COURSEWORK.
Before even beginning the specialized education required to become a lab tech, it’s important to have a basic high school Diploma. There are also specific areas of focus that can be completed in high school coursework which can help develop a solid foundation in becoming a Medical Lab Technician.
Credits in sciences like chemistry, biology, and advanced math are important subjects to excel at. Generally, these are necessary courses to have completed in high school to meet the acceptance requirements of technical schools. Courses in information technology and computers are assets as well. Achievements in English and communication will also be very helpful in the role of a lab technician who must regularly interact with other medical professionals.
Having these fundamentals as part of your high school education background will help you get the most out of your formal education and lead to a successful career as a lab tech.
3. COMPLETE AN ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE.
All Medical Lab Technicians must complete the appropriate technical education in order to obtain employment. To acquire the necessary education, you’ll complete a two-year associate’s degree program through an accredited college. This is the minimum requirement to become a certified Medical Lab Technician and work in a professional lab setting.
The Medical Lab Technician education programs are an exciting combination of classroom learning and practical hands-on experience. This balance helps you apply your theoretical knowledge and also your real-life experience, so you know what to expect once you enter the workforce.
In classroom study, lab tech you’ll learn medical terminology, as well as scientific studies in microbiology, anatomy, physiology, and other medical subjects. A focus on lab procedures, scientific data collections, record-keeping, and safety practices will also be part of the foundation of your education as a Medical Lab Technician.
The practical study component of the education program gives you the opportunity to simulate daily procedures of your future job. Externships are also available to further gain practical, hands-on experience. Many of these can even lead to an employment opportunity.
4. OBTAIN LICENSING AND OTHER CERTIFICATIONS.
Though it isn’t always required, some states or individual employers do require that laboratory professionals become licensed or certified by specific associations. Becoming certified is also a way to add value to your resume and help you stand out from other potential candidates. The American Medical Technologists (AMT) is an organization that administers certification and professional memberships. Many healthcare professional choose to pursue their certification through AMT as a way to advance their career and continue sharpening their skills and knowledge.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Association of Bioanalysts (ABB) are two other organizations that issue certifications. Both of these associations require a certain amount of work experience before becoming eligible for their certifications.
Further certification can be obtained in specialized areas of practice such as medical biology or clinical chemistry. For more information about available certifications, visit the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Services (NAACLS).
Regardless of whether you decide to have a general or a specialized focus, some level of certification can be incredibly beneficial in adding value to your skills. Conduct research on the available options and choose the one you find best aligns with your career goals.
5. SEEK EMPLOYMENT AND OBTAIN A JOB.
There are a variety of medical and research facilities in need of professional Medical Lab Technicians. Lab technician jobs are usually found in hospitals, doctor’s offices, specialized clinics, and medical labs. While these are the most common places to find jobs as a Medical Lab Technician, universities, ambulatory care facilities, research labs, blood banks, and pharmaceutical manufacturers also hire professional lab technicians as part of their regular operations. While the role is generally to provide the same level of lab support, there are specific duties that will range from one type of facility to the next.
Often during the education program, employment is secured through the externships or practical work experience. Other career support services can also be helpful in finding the right job after graduation.
6. CONTINUE YOUR EDUCATION AND ADVANCE YOUR CAREER.
Your career path as a Medical Lab Technician doesn’t necessarily end once you’ve been hired out of college. There are several specializations and certifications you can complete after gaining work experience. Working for a few years will also help you decide which areas of the field interest you most. From there, you can choose which direction to advance your career.
Eventually you may decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a more specialized area such as chemistry, microbiology, or even management. Advanced education can provide greater opportunities within a variety of organizations. Research, product development, and administration or management are potential career paths once a graduate degree is obtained. The roles of Medical Lab Scientist or Technologist require a bachelor’s degree to meet the requirements of this position.
Whether a graduate degree is obtained or not, continuing education in this field will be required. Technology, testing practices, and standards in medical laboratories continue to evolve. You will find it’s important to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing medical field.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN COLLEGE
During your two-year associate’s degree program, you can expect a diverse and challenging course load. Because any career in the medical field requires extensive knowledge of science and medical terminology, it will require a lot of studying and preparation for examinations. Additionally, the role of a Medical Lab Technician specifically requires excellent record keeping. The ability to stay organized and prepared will be vital to successfully completing the practical components of the program.
Medical Lab Technician programs provide students with the support and guidance of experienced professional instructors. These instructors have extensive expertise and backgrounds in their fields, and they pass along their knowledge and practical experience to their students. This type of professional environment gives students the confidence needed to enter the workforce.
There are plenty of opportunities to experience real-world medical lab scenarios through consistent hands-on training. Lab technician schools give students the chance to work with professional laboratory equipment, providing an exciting and practical experience that prepares you for employment.
LEARNING OUTCOMES OF THE LAB TECHNICIAN PROGRAM
The lab technician education program is designed to help students develop all the necessary skills required to obtain employment and be successful in their future jobs. Additionally, the program provides a foundation for further career advancement and continuing education.
While there are many skills acquired throughout the education program, some of the specific learning outcomes of the Medical Lab Technician program are:
- Proper use of the computerized software and advanced lab equipment
- Thorough follow-through on all scientific procedures
- Specific and detailed record-keeping practices
- Data collection and analysis practices for successfully determining test results
- Safety, health, and sterilization practices of medical lab settings
- Medical terminology required to work with other medical professionals
- Professional expectations including respecting patient privacy
These skills are mandatory across all facilities and positions. They are vital requirements in becoming a competent Medical Lab Technician.
HOW LONG IT TAKES TO BECOME A LAB TECHNICIAN
Provided you’ve already obtained your high school diploma with the necessary credits, your associate’s degree required to become a Medical Lab Technician is two-year program. The program offers flexible scheduling to meet the demands of busy lifestyles. Full-time enrollment can help students complete the associate’s degree program in as little as 18 months.
HOW TO GET A JOB AS A LAB TECHNICIAN
During your education you will be provided with all the necessary skills and education required to obtain employment in a professional medical lab setting. Jobs in the medical field and particularly as a lab technician are in high demand. Health care continues to be an evolving field that demands highly-skilled professionals to meet the various needs of our growing population.
The experience gained in the Medical Lab Technician program can lead to direct placement with an employer through the practical work experience and potential externship experience. Upon completion of the associate degree’s requirements in the Medical Lab Technician program, you can begin applying to a variety of facilities.
At this point, you should assess which areas of the field you would most enjoy. Additionally, you should decide which ones will provide the most opportunity for advancement. Hospitals and physician offices seek professional and competent Medical Lab Technicians who can work flexible hours. If you are more interested in the research aspect of the role, then universities and research labs often look for enthusiastic and highly-skilled Medical Lab Techs. These lab techs participate in ongoing studies and projects and can be part of exciting new developments.
Depending on the employer and the facility, further licensing and certification may be required. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the individual requirements of each position.
While the Medical Lab Technician Associate’s Degree program prepares you for general practice as a lab tech, you may decide to become further specialized. Some employers provide the upgrading or ongoing training required. If there is a specialized career area you are interested in pursuing, discuss the opportunities with a career counselor or ask the employer about the opportunities for further training.
By continuing your education and employment training, it will begin to open up new opportunities to advance your career as a Medical Lab Technician and in the medical field in general.
If you are interested in the career opportunities as a Medical Lab Technician, learn more about our Medical Lab Technician Associate Degree program. An Admissions Representative will be happy to provide helpful information on what to expect at Vista College and with the Medical Lab Technician program.