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Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) Career Profile

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What is a Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT)? Brief Overview of MLT:

Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLTs) constitute a large portion of the 300,000 medical laboratory professionals working in the United States. According to the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP), "a medical laboratory technician searches for basic clues to the absence, presence, extent, and causes of diseases. This skilled individual is responsible for performing laboratory tests efficiently and accurately for high-quality patient care."

Medical laboratory technicians work in a medical laboratory, often under the guidance or supervision of a medical technologist (MT). The nature of the work is similar in that MLTs also work with laboratory equipment, helping to prepare and analyze slides and specimens of human blood, tissue, or other cells.

Medical Laboratory Technicians help to support the work of medical technologists, to help identify abnormalities in the samples such as malignancies, bacteria, parasites, or genetic abnormalities. Medical laboratory technicians also may assist in blood-typing, or other routine blood tests. Medical laboratory technicians do similar work but at a less complex level as medical technologists, as educational requirements for medical laboratory technicians are less than the requirements for medical technologists.

Educational Requirements for Medical Laboratory Technicians:

To prepare for a career as a medical laboratory technician, it helps to start by “getting a solid foundation in high school sciences — biology, chemistry, math and computer science,” according to the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

After graduating from high school, successful completion of an associate’s degree is also required. (An associate’s degree consists of about two years of college coursework from a community college, technical or vocational school, or university.)

In addition to the associate’s degree, completion of an accredited training program for medical laboratory technicians.

If an MLT goes on to obtain a bachelor’s degree, he or she can then advance to the medical technologist (MT) role with the "appropriate experience," according to the ASCP.

Salary for Medical Laboratory Technicians:

While the top 10% of medical lab technicians earned up to $50,250, the median annual salary for this career is $32,840, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, visited April 2009. Additionally, the slightly higher paying MLT jobs are typically found in hospitals and universities, with slightly lower paying jobs found in medical laboratories of physician offices or small clinics.

What's to Like about Careers as a Medical Laboratory Technician:

Like other medical lab careers, demand for medical lab technicians is huge, according to the BLS and the ASCP. Over half of all medical laboratories in the U.S. are hiring!

Additionally, medical laboratory technician jobs offer an opportunity to have a significant impact on patient care, without actually interacting with patients. While people skills are important in any job, MLT jobs do not require the level of interpersonal interaction or skills that other medical jobs require when direct patient care is involved.

If you are fascinated by science and technology as they apply to healthcare, you may want to be an MLT!

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