Collecting, testing, and analyzing bodily fluids and tissues are the responsibilities of medical laboratory technologists. Also called medical laboratory scientists or clinical laboratory technologists, they prepare cultures of fluid and tissue samples, submit them to testing procedures, and study the results to determine diagnoses.

Most medical laboratory technologists are employed in hospitals. Others work at private laboratories, research facilities, doctors’ offices and clinics, and veterinary labs. Some have jobs with biotechnology firms or the federal government. These health-care professionals sometimes supervise medical laboratory technicians and report to laboratory managers.

Certain levels of education, training, and certification are required. Federal officials predict a job-growth rate of 14 percent in this field from 2012 to 2022. The job offers good salaries and benefits, as well as the satisfaction of helping patients suffering from serious conditions.

Medical Laboratory Technologist Job Description

Medical laboratory technologists operate sophisticated equipment to perform tests on samples of patients blood, urine, and other fluids and tissues. They conduct toxicology, chemical, biologic, bacteriologic, immunologic, and hematologic tests.

The results are studied and interpreted to diagnose the cause of a patient’s illness or disorder. This involves discerning blood type, cell count, and chemical makeup. Analyses also reveal the presence of drugs, toxins, bacteria, and parasites. The responsibilities of a medical laboratory technologist include:

  • Set up, operate, and calibrate medical equipment;
  • Collect and label samples of bodily fluids and tissues;
  • Prepare cultures of samples for analysis;
  • Place cultures on slides and examine them with a microscope or automatic analyzer;
  • Conduct a range of tests to determine the samples’ chemical makeup, contaminants, and other components;
  • Give the results of tests and analyses to doctors and patients;
  • Properly store samples to preserve them for further analysis;
  • Cross-match blood for transfusions;
  • Keep the lab neat, organized, and sanitary;
  • Create and oversee data-accuracy protocols;
  • Ensure that safety and disease-prevention policies are followed;
  • Maintain patient report forms and lab records;
  • Attend training sessions, receive continuing education, read medical journals, and join professional organizations.

Medical Laboratory Technologist Prerequisites

This profession entails working with patients’ bodily fluids, which may contain contagious diseases and other contaminants. Laboratories typically have sterilization and infection-control programs designed to limit the exposure risk.

Some physical stamina is needed, as medical laboratory technologists have to stand for hours. They sometimes work long and irregular hours. Those who are on call for emergencies must be ready to respond day or night.

These professionals have to be focused, with strong attention to detail. They need analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking abilities. Good communication skills are required for working with patients, lab customers, and medical staff.

Medical Laboratory Technologist Education

High school students planning to enter any medical profession are advised to take classes in sciences like biology and chemistry, as well as math and English.

To become a medical laboratory technologist, at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college in medical technology, clinical laboratory science, or another health technology is usually required. These programs feature courses in anatomy, immunology, laboratory management, medical ethics, microbiology, parasitology, and physiology. In addition to classwork, students must complete one-year internships in laboratories.

A master’s degree may be necessary to qualify for higher pay, get hired at a more prestigious institution, or be promoted to laboratory manager.

Medical Laboratory Technologist Certification

Some states mandate that medical laboratory technologists be licensed, which involves meeting the educational requirements and passing an exam. Information about how to apply is available from states’ departments of health or occupational licensure boards.

Many employers look for medical laboratory technologists who hold certificates from the American Medical Technologists organization. To be eligible for these credentials, an applicant must show proof of having obtained a bachelor’s degree and completed an internship. In addition, an exam must be passed to be certified.

Medical Laboratory Technologist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the medical laboratory technologist job description:
  • Collect, test, and analyze bodily fluids and tissues
  • Work with medical laboratory technicians
  • 4 years bachelor’s degree
  • Licensure only required in some states
  • 14% employment growth by 2022