The Scoop on Clinical Laboratory Technicians

Laboratory Technology has two faces - Laboratory Technologists and Laboratory Technicians, and these jobs require differing levels of training and responsibility.

Lab Technicians fill a vital, entry level role in the workings of a medical lab where there are many people running around doing lots of sometimes complex things. A Lab Technologist is one step up from a Lab Technician.

What in the World Does a Clinical Laboratory Technician Do?

As with any other medical lab worker, a Clinical Laboratory Technician uses samples of a patient's body fluids (saliva, blood, etc.) or tissues (biopsies) to run tests on a Doctor's orders that will tell the Doctor more about what is wrong with his/her patient. Clinical Lab Techs work in medical labs that tend to be controlled environments to ensure valid results. There is not much chance to get out and smell the roses. As a Lab Technician, you would perform simple tests that are not likely to produce errors. You would also be charged with assisting lab technologists with more complex tests. For example, you might prepare blood or tissue samples to be put in some machine for a test, but the Technologist is more likely to analyze the data.

If you worked in a hospital lab, you might do a variety of tasks in addition to preparing samples for analysis and running the tests that you are responsible for. If you worked in a lab that specialized in certain tests, then your work would be more repetitive.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Training to become a Lab Technician differs slightly from other lab workers. Most Technicians have either an Associate's Degree in Medical Technology from a college or university, but some have a certificate of training from a vocational school or from a hospital training program. Most of this training is not done in an "on-the-job" environment because few people switch from one Medical entry level profession to Lab Technician on the same level.

Though you do not have to have a license to work as a Lab Technician, if you wanted to become a Lab Technologist, you would need more training and the State where you live might require you to get a license.

Working as a Lab Technician can be perfect for someone who has many other responsibilities, because you can work around the clock and select a time frame that best suits your needs.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Most of these jobs are to be had in hospitals and medical clinics, but there are other places to find work. If you wanted, you could get a job at a testing center where they specialize in a specific type of test. You could also work in a large medical practice that has its own laboratory on site. Still others work for Lab Corporations that outsource lots of tests to medical professionals in your community.

If you wanted to advance your career, the first step would be getting a little extra training and becoming a Lab Technologist (who performs more complex tests). After becoming a Technologist, you could get an advanced Degree and become the "Supervisor of Lab Testing" or manage other Technicians.

Still further, you could teach prospective Lab Technicians in training programs or at a college or university. You won't have to spend your whole career setting up blood samples and getting the Technologists' coffee, if you work at advancing in this field.

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Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians Overview

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician Salary:$35,380
Job Prospects:A+
Education after high school:2 years
# Employed in US:149,670
% Who work Part Time:18%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+

The Pros of being a Clinical Laboratory Technician

  • There is not a lot of training involved
  • You can get that training in many different forms and on many different timelines
  • You have a great chance for advancement
  • The profession is expected to grow with the population (fast)

The Cons of being a Clinical Laboratory Technician

  • Labs tend to be in closed quarters
  • This is an entry-level job
  • You may take on more than testing duties when you are so low on the totem pole