What is a Clinical Laboratory Technologist

Scientists who perform and interpret diagnostic tests of body fluids and tissue samples are called clinical laboratory technologists (also known as Medical Laboratory Technologist, Medical Laboratory Scientists, or MLT). They analyze blood types, cell counts, and chemicals; and look for bacteria, parasites, and blood-clotting disorders. The tests are designed to identify the cause and extent of diseases and disorders. Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are among the ailments detected by technologists, who work with doctors to determine treatments.

Technologists also cross-match donors’ blood for transfusions, and measure medication levels in patients’ blood. They are trained to use, maintain, and calibrate complex medical equipment to conduct tests. Some of the more advanced procedures involve microbiology, molecular diagnostics, and genetics. For more information on job duties, please visit our medical laboratory technologist job description page.

Work Environment

As the job title implies, these scientists spend their time in laboratories. They work with lab staffers, doctors, and other medical professionals. There is no contact with patients or the public. Labs, whether medical or industrial, are generally safe and sterile workplaces.

Handling human fluids and tissues containing contagious diseases requires following health and safety procedures to prevent infection. Technologists must stand for hours, and possess the strength and agility to move and position heavy equipment.

Work Schedule

Technologists usually work full-time, 40-hour weeks. Labs in hospitals and some other facilities operate 24 hours per day, requiring three shifts every day of the week. Technologists also are frequently on call, to respond to emergencies.

Mean Annual Clinical Laboratory Technologist Salary

The average annual salary at last report for a clinical laboratory technologist in the United States was $58,640, which amounted to $28.19 per hour, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10 percent of earners made an average pay of $39,580 per year, while those in the top 10 percent received an average of $78,900 per year.

Clinical Laboratory Technologist Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$58,640 per year
$28.19 per hour
Top 10% Salary$78,900 per year
$37.93 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$39,580 per year
$19.03 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2012160,700

Clinical Laboratory Technologist Job Outlook and Prospects

The BLS has projected 22 percent job growth (70,600 additional positions) in this profession from 2012 to 2022. That would be significantly greater than the 14 percent rate the agency predicted for the average occupation.

As the population continues to grow, and the number of elderly people increases at an even greater rate, there will be more demand for these scientists. Screenings and preventive tests are becoming more common, particularly with the expansion of government-subsidized health insurance. Advances in technology also are fueling job growth. Breakthroughs in biomarkers, genetics, and other disciplines are creating more testing methods that require professionals to conduct.

Clinical Laboratory Technologist Salary Salary: Factors of Influence

Education and Specialization

To practice in this profession, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university is necessary. A major in clinical laboratory science, allied health technologies, or a related field is recommended. In their senior year, students serve as interns in clinical rotations. Working with professionals in labs, they get hands-on experience performing diagnostic tests. A master’s degree may help a technologist earn a promotion to a lab-management position.

Certification, from either the National Medical Laboratory Science Council or the American Society for Clinical Pathology, is required to qualify for the title of medical laboratory scientist (MLS). Some states mandate that practitioners obtain licenses.

Technologists are trained as generalists who conduct a wide array of diagnostic tests involving blood, urine, and other fluids. Some pursue specialties in fields like bacteriology, biochemistry, blood banking, hematology, histopathology, immunology, microbiology, genetics, and toxicology.


More than half of clinical laboratory technologists work in general-medical and surgical hospitals. Independent medical and diagnostic labs, and non-medical labs owned by manufacturing and industrial firms, also hire these scientists. Biotechnology, pharmaceutical, chemical, medical-manufacturing, food, cosmetic, architectural, and engineering industries are among those that operate labs.

Other employers include physicians’ offices and clinics; federal-government agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration; colleges, universities, and professional schools; public-health, forensic, research, and law-enforcement labs; fertility and veterinary clinics; and transplant and blood-donor centers. Large corporations tend to offer the highest-paying positions.


At last report, more clinical laboratory technologists (13,490) worked in Texas than in any other state. They earned an average of $55,150 per year. California provided 10,850 positions, with an average salary of $77,550 (which led the nation). New York offered 9,910 jobs averaging $63,310; Florida, 9,150 at $55,850; and Pennsylvania, 8,210 at $54,580. The 10 metropolitan areas in the United States with the most jobs were all in California.

Following California on the list of top-paying states were Massachusetts, $67,570 (with 6,670 positions); Alaska, $66,760 (just 260 jobs); Connecticut, $66,740 (2,480 positions); and Nevada, $66,200 (1,110 jobs).

The metropolitan area featuring the highest salaries was Los Angeles, with 2,980 positions averaging $74,500. Next were Boston, 4,550 jobs at $68,260; New York City, 6,390 at $65,060; Washington, D.C., 2,450 at $61,350; and Baltimore, 2,000 at $61,250.

Clinical Laboratory Technologist Salary State By State