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Clinical Laboratory Technician Job Description, Career as a Clinical Laboratory Technician, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$30,840 per year

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

Clinical laboratory technicians are also known as medical technicians or medical laboratory technicians. They conduct laboratory tests that aid in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Clinical laboratory technicians are supervised by clinical laboratory technologists and physicians, such as pathologists. (Pathologists specialize in the diagnosis of disease.)

Most clinical laboratory technicians work in hospitals. Some work in research institutes and clinics. Others are employed in commercial medical laboratories that run tests for doctors and hospitals on a fee basis.

Clinical laboratory technicians perform routine tasks in the laboratory. For example, they collect samples of blood and urine, label them, and conduct simple tests on them. They sterilize instruments; prepare, stain, and label slides; and keep records of tests. Clinical laboratory technicians also perform tests involved in blood banking. For example, they may help to determine a donor's blood type. They may work in several areas of the clinical laboratory or specialize in just one.

Histotechnicians prepare slides of body tissue for examination by clinical laboratory technologists and pathologists. They freeze tissue so that it can be cut into paper-thin slices. They also stain the slides so that the tissue can be seen clearly under a microscope.

Education and Training Requirements

You must have a high school diploma or its equivalent to be a clinical laboratory technician. High school courses in science and math offer good preparation. You generally need specialized training after high school—either an associate degree from a community or junior college or a certificate from a hospital, a vocational or technical school, or one of the U.S. Armed Forces. A few technicians learn their skills on the job. Certification is not required to work. However, it can be an advantage in finding a job or advancing in the field. Manual dexterity and normal color vision are generally required.

The best way to acquire training as a clinical laboratory technician is to take a two-year accredited training program offered in community and junior colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. The Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation has accredited more than one hundred of these programs, while the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) has accredited more than four hundred and fifty programs. Several organizations also offer certification for technicians.

In some states, technicians must be licensed to work. The requirements vary, but usually include a written examination. Accredited training programs are also available for histotechnicians.

Clinical laboratory technicians perform procedures on blood and other bodily fluids that are crucial to the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. (© Stock4B/Corbis.)

It is very important that clinical laboratory technicians carefully research training programs before choosing one. Selecting the right program can help during job hunting because certain areas of medicine have different training requirements.

Getting the Job

Your school placement office can help you find a job. You can also apply directly to hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and research institutions at which you would like to work. Check newspaper want ads, job banks on the Internet, and professional journals as well.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Additional training is usually required to advance. Clinical laboratory technicians may study to become technologists. A master's degree is generally required for teaching and research positions.

The outlook for clinical laboratory technicians is excellent through the year 2014, with employment expected to increase faster than average. As the older population grows, so will the volume of testing and the number of clinical laboratories. The probability of new and more powerful diagnostic tests and research laboratories working to find the cause, treatment, and cure for AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) also should create jobs.

Working Conditions

Working conditions for clinical laboratory technicians vary depending on their specialty. However, in all cases the work is very detailed. Laboratory technicians sit for much of the day. They rarely have contact with patients. Their tasks are generally routine, but they perform a wide range of tests.

Histotechnicians perform many different tasks. Generally, they work under the supervision of several people. Histotechnicians may be under pressure to work quickly. At times, tissue samples of a person who is being operated on are sent to the technicians, and they must prepare the slides immediately.

Clinical laboratory technicians usually work forty hours per week. Those who work in hospitals may be required to work some evenings and weekends. Laboratory technicians may be required to wear uniforms and protective clothing.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
6701 Democracy Blvd., Ste. 300
Bethesda, MD 20817
(301) 657-2768

Clinical Laboratory Management Association
989 Old Eagle School Rd., Ste. 815
Wayne, PA 19087
(610) 995-9580

Earnings and Benefits

Clinical laboratory technicians earn a median salary of $30,840. Experienced workers can earn more. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations. Some workers have pension plans.

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