What is a Clinical Laboratory Technician

Clinical laboratory technicians (also known as Medical Laboratory Technician, Medical Laboratory Technologist, Clinical Laboratory Technologist, Biochemistry Technologist, Chief Medical Technologist or MLT) are skilled individuals working under the supervision of a certified medical laboratory technologist. They carry out routine clinical laboratory tests and other procedures.

When a patient’s fluids or tissues are sent to a lab for analysis, clinical laboratory technicians examine the samples and conduct diagnostic tests. They help lab directors and doctors determine the cause and nature of illnesses, diseases, infections, and disorders. Technicians are skilled in the use of computers, microscopes, and other advanced equipment. For more on job duties, please visit our medical laboratory technician job description page.

Work Environment

Unlike many medical professionals, these technicians do not work directly with patients. Their duties are performed in labs and other facilities, without contact with the public. They are often trained by medical laboratory technologists, also called lab scientists; and work under the supervision of lab directors, supervisors, or managers. They primarily work in hospitals and laboratories including research, speciality, and veterinary labs. While some may work in public health centres, health clinics, and biotech companies.

The workplace is generally safe and sterile. However, there is a risk of coming into contact with patients’ contagious diseases, which is why technicians wear masks and gloves nearly all the time. Moving and positioning heavy equipment can be hazardous, and technicians need physical stamina and manual dexterity.

Work Schedule

Clinical laboratory technician will typical work 35-40 hours per week. The majority of technicians work full time, during the day, on Mondays through Fridays. Some hospitals and other facilities operate their labs 24 hours a day, so they may have to do shift work. Consequently, technicians working in these facilities will have to work evenings, weekends and holidays. Part-time positions, during the day or night, are also offered in some instances.

Mean Annual Clinical Laboratory Technician Salary

The average salary of a clinical laboratory technician in the United States, as of late January 2014, was $40,000. This income was 35 percent lower than the average salary of job postings nationwide at the time.

In 2012, when the typical technician made $39,340, those in the top 10 percent of income earned an average of $57,710. Technicians in the bottom 10 percent were paid an average of $24,790. In 2008, the average salary was $35,380, so the trend of steadily increasing pay is evident.

Clinical Laboratory Technician Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$39,340 per year
$18.91 per hour
Top 10% Salary$57,710 per year
$27.75 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$24,790 per year
$11.92 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2012161,500

Clinical Laboratory Technician Job Outlook and Prospects

Few professions are experiencing job growth comparable to that of clinical laboratory technicians. U.S. government analysts predict that the number of positions in the field will rise 30 percent between 2012 and 2022. That would mean 47,900 more jobs than the 325,800 reported at the beginning of that decade.

As the Baby Boom generation ages, more strain is being placed on the nation’s health-care system. The rising number of patients requires a corresponding increase in the number of clinical laboratory technicians and other staff.

Advancements in technology, involving new equipment and testing methods, are also spurring job growth. Biomarkers, genetic testing, and polymerase chain-reaction technology are among the cutting-edge procedures creating positions for technicians. On the other hand, some fear that the increasing use of automated technology will eliminate the need for some of the medical staffers who work in clinical laboratories.

Clinical Laboratory Technician Salary: Factors of Influence

Clinical laboratory technician salary averages approximately $39,340 per year nationally, however this average can vary by around $20,000 in either direction. The factors primarily influencing this variance are the industry worked and the geographic location, with experience offering some additional minor influence.

Education and Specialization

Most employers require technicians to have two-year associate’s degrees in the field. Numerous junior colleges and community colleges offer such programs. Students are advised to make sure a school is recognized by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

Medical professionals with degrees in related fields (like nursing) are able to qualify as technicians by completing one-year programs in general laboratory knowledge. Some employers hire technicians who have earned certificates from hospitals or vocational schools, rather than degrees. Professional certification from the Clinical Laboratory Sciences organization is recommended. Getting these credentials involves passing an exam, as does obtaining a state license to practice as a technician. Although most states do not require a technician to be certified, employers tend to look for individuals with certification and in turn they receive higher wages.

These medical professionals may specialize in clinical chemistry, immunology, microbiology, or other fields. This can result in better-paying jobs at larger facilities. A technician can advance to medical laboratory technologist by earning a bachelor’s degree, and obtaining the necessary lab experience and training.


Most technicians are employed by hospitals, medical diagnostic laboratories, or clinical labs. Other workplaces include commercial, forensic, law-enforcement, public-health, and reference laboratories.

Some technicians work at doctors’ clinics; biotechnology, chemical, and pharmaceutical firms; transplant and blood-donor facilities; fertility clinics; teaching and research operations; food and cosmetic companies; ambulatory-care centers; and veterinary clinics.

Facilities operated by the federal government tend to pay the highest salaries for technicians. Hospitals and doctors’ offices with clinical labs also pay better than most other employers.


California leads the nation in the number of positions available for clinical laboratory technicians. Next on the list, at last report, were Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Four of the six cities featuring the highest salaries for technicians (Santa Ana, San Diego, Fresno, and Vacaville) were in California. The other top-ranking locations at the time of the report were San Antonio, Texas; and Raleigh, S.C.

Higher salaries tend to be found in large cities. The fastest rate of job growth in the field is expected in expanding metropolitan areas, especially those with large senior-citizen populations. However, opportunities are available everywhere, as the demand for medical laboratory technicians continues to grow.

Clinical Laboratory Technician Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA: $58,860Rhode Island: $62,850Offices of Dentists: $57,380California: (15,970 jobs) $44,220
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $57,490District of Columbia: $52,760Medical Equipement and Supplies Manufacturing: $50,930Texas: (11,260 jobs) $35,550
San Francisco, CA: $57,420Alaska: $51,470Junior Colleges: $49,510Pennsylvania: (8,960 jobs) $37,860
Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA: $56,960Connecticut: $49,580Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing: $49,250Georgia: (7,740 jobs) $35,540
San Jose, CA: $53,930Oregon: $48,590Computer Systems Design and Related Services: $47,030North Carolina: (7,290 jobs) $38,290

Clinical Laboratory Technician Salary State By State