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Medical Technologist Career Profile

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Scientist examining test tubes in lab Cultura/Jason Butcher/Riser/Getty Images

What is a Medical Technologist? Career Overview:

Medical technologists are one of many exciting and rewarding medical laboratory careers. According to the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP), medical technologists perform a variety of tasks including everything from simple pre-marital blood tests, to more complex tests to uncover diseases such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and cancer.

Although medical technologists do not often interact directly with patients, the work completed by medical technologists directly impacts patients’ lives. Physicians rely on the information provided by medical technologists to determine the diagnosis and treatment of their patients.

“Also known as Clinical Laboratory Scientists (CLS), medical technologists operate complex electronic equipment, computers, and precision instruments.” This equipment, such as high-powered microscopes, and cell counters, is often worth millions of dollars. Therefore, the medical technologist must be savvy with technology as well as in science.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), medical technologists analyze specimens of human blood and tissue under a microscope to look for bacteria, parasites, cancerous cells, or other microorganisms. They match blood for transfusions, check blood levels for chemicals, drugs, or other factors. Additionally, medical technologists “evaluate test results, develop and modify procedures, and establish and monitor programs, to ensure the accuracy of tests.”

Educational and Training Requirements for Medical Technologists:

A medical technologist career requires at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a scientific field. Additionally, the completion of an accredited medical technologist program is also required. The program must be accredited by the National Accrediting Agency of Clinical Laboratory Science (NAA-CLS).

To prepare for a career in medical technology, you can start in high school, by studying hard to excel in key subjects such as biology, chemistry, math, and computer sciences, according to the ASCP.

You can major in a related subject to obtain a bachelor’s degree in an applicable science such as biology, microbiology or biochemistry. After completion of your undergraduate degree, the clinical and technical training in a medical technology program will further prepare you for a successful lab career as a medical technologist.

If you are seeking a similar career that does not require a bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider a career as a Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT).

Certification as a Medical Technologist:

For optimum success, medical technologists should become certified in their field after completing all of the educational and training requirements. The ASCP offers a national certification exam that should be renewed every three years. This certifies that you are proficient in your field and allows you to use the initials MT(ASCP) after your name.

Average Salary for Medical Technologists:

The median (mid-point) annual salary for Medical Technologists is about $49,700 according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), visited April 2009. (However, the data is dated 2006.) The top 10% of earners among medical technologists earned $69,260, according to the BLS.

Work Environment and Job Opportunities:

Medical technologists can work in a variety of settings, including labs in hospitals, clinics, public health institutions, universities, or commercial independent laboratories.

Medical technologists are in extremely high demand, according to the ASCP. While there is a shortage in all medical laboratory careers, medical technologists have the highest vacancy rate of all lab careers, at 10.4%.

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