Medical laboratory technologists held about 164,300 jobs in 2012. Medical laboratory technicians held about 161,500 jobs in 2012.
The industries that employed the most medical laboratory technologists and technicians in 2012 were as follows:
|General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private||50%|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||17|
|Offices of physicians||10|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||5|
Most medical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.
Medical laboratory personnel are trained to work with infectious specimens or with materials that produce fumes. When they follow proper methods to control infection and sterilize equipment, few hazards exist. They wear protective masks, gloves, and goggles for their safety and protection.
Technologists and technicians can be on their feet for long periods, and they may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples.
Medical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Technicians usually need an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.
Universities and hospitals offer medical technology programs. An entry-level job for technologists usually requires a bachelor's degree in medical technology or life sciences.
A bachelor’s degree program in medical laboratory technology includes courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, mathematics, and statistics, as well as courses in clinical laboratory skills, management, and education. This degree often is known as a medical laboratory scientist degree.
The courses may be offered through a hospital-based program that students attend during their senior year of college. College graduates who major in other sciences and meet a program’s prerequisites, such as having completed required courses in biology and chemistry, also may apply to a medical laboratory science program.
Medical laboratory technicians often complete an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory science. A limited number of 1-year certificate programs are available from hospitals for those who already have a degree in a related field, such as nursing. The Armed Forces and vocational or technical schools also may offer certificate programs for medical laboratory technicians. The technician coursework addresses the theoretical and practical aspects of each of the major laboratory disciplines.
High school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the medical laboratory sciences should take courses in chemistry, biology, and mathematics.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed or registered. To be licensed, a technologist often needs a bachelor's degree and must pass an exam. However, requirements vary by state and specialty. For specific requirements, contact state departments of health or boards of occupational licensing.
Certification of medical laboratory technologists and technicians is required for licensure in some states and by some employers. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians can obtain a general certification as a medical laboratory technologist or technician, respectively, or a certification in a specialty, such as cytotechnology or medical biology. Most credentialing institutions require that technologists complete an accredited education program in order to qualify to sit for an examination. Although certification is not required to enter the occupation in all cases, employers typically prefer to hire certified technologists and technicians.
After additional education, work experience, or certification, technologists and technicians may specialize in one of many areas of laboratory science, such as immunology, histotechnology, or clinical chemistry.
Medical laboratory technologists typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a medical laboratory technologist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Medical laboratory technologists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Ability to use technology. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians must understand how to operate complex machinery.
Detail oriented. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians must follow exact instructions from physicians in order to perform correct tests or procedures.
Dexterity. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians require skill while working with their hands. They work closely with needles and precise laboratory instruments and must be able to handle these tools effectively.
Physical stamina. Medical laboratory technologists and technicians may work on their feet for long periods while collecting samples. They may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples for testing.
The median annual wage for medical laboratory technologists was $57,580 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,900.
The median annual wage for medical laboratory technicians was $37,240 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $57,710.
Most medical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that are always open, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.
Employment of medical laboratory technologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of medical laboratory technicians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, much 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 technologists and technicians will be in demand, to use and maintain the equipment needed for diagnosis and treatment.
Federal health legislation will increase the number of patients who have access to health insurance, increasing patient access to medical care. As a result, demand for the services of laboratory personnel will grow.
For more information about medical laboratory technologists and technicians, visit
American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
American Society of Cytopathology
For a list of accredited and approved educational programs for medical laboratory personnel, visit
National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
For information on certification, visit
American Association of Bioanalysts
American Medical Technologists
American Society for Clinical Pathology