Medical Laboratory Technology Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Info

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What will you learn in a medical laboratory technology program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Medical Laboratory Technology: Degrees at a Glance

Medical laboratory technology, also sometimes called medical laboratory science, is a field of medicine where graduates perform tests on blood, body fluids and other tissue. These samples are used to help diagnose and treat diseases. Medical laboratory technology graduates can work in a variety of healthcare environments, such as hospitals, research facilities, doctor's offices, industry and clinics.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), positions within the field of medical laboratory technology are expected to grow 11-15% from 2010-2020. An increase in the aging population will require additional laboratory testing for medical conditions.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People wishing to find entry-level work in medical laboratory technology Those who want more responsibility in a laboratory, designing and analyzing tests
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Medical laboratory technician ($39,000)* - Medical laboratory technologist ($58,000)*
Time to Completion two years full-time four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework
- Clinical training
Same as associate's degree
Prerequisites - High school diploma
- Math and science courses
-Hepatitis B vaccine
- Entrance interview with program
Same as associate's degree
Online Availability Hybrid Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Medical Laboratory Technology Associate's Degrees

Medical laboratory technology is an essential part of the disease treatment process. Those with an associate's degree in this field typically learn how to collect samples, prepare and analyze specimens, conduct experiments and maintain laboratory equipment. Associate's degree programs often consist of coursework and may include a clinical practicum at a nearby clinic or hospital.

Programs may be offered on-campus or in a hybrid format. While employment after graduation is an option, an associate's degree may be used to transfer to a bachelor's degree program as well. Graduates with a bachelor's degree will have more responsibilities than individuals with an associate's degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Medical laboratory technology is a stable, necessary part of the medical field
  • Prepared to work right after graduation
  • May be able to specialize (chemistry, hematology, etc.)

Cons

  • Aside from the degree, licensure and certification may be required*
  • May need to work nights and weekends*
  • Often required to stand for long periods of time*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

Medical laboratory technology associate's degree programs typically require 60-70 hours of coursework. This tends to be a mix of medical laboratory technology core classes and general education. Some programs may require or include a clinical practicum, where you work in a lab for credit.

Classes you may take include:

  • Hematology
  • Microbiology
  • Urinalysis
  • Immunology
  • Bacteriology

Some programs may also require that specific math and science courses be taken as prerequisites before applying to the medical laboratory technology program.

Online Degree Options

Several schools offer online or distance learning associate's degree programs in medical laboratory technology. These tend to be hybrid programs. Some classes are offered online, but clinical courses are often taken in-person, such as at a local hospital or clinic. The course listings for these programs tend to be very similar to on-campus programs.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

According to the BLS, many employers prefer to hire a certified medical laboratory technician. Certification is offered through a few different organizations, including the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Medical Technologists (AMT). The ASCP requires an associate's degree, though not necessarily one in medical laboratory technology, with some combination of additional coursework and training. The AMT certification requires a degree in medical laboratory technology, a related degree and experience, military training or the completion of another organization's certification.

Other Degrees to Consider

A degree in medical laboratory science is sufficient to work as a medical laboratory technician. However, if you'd prefer to work with animals instead of people, you might consider a degree in veterinary technology. This is typically a 2-year associate's degree program. While veterinary technicians earn less, the field is rapidly growing. The BLS projects that jobs for veterinary technicians will increase 52% from 2010-2020.

Medical Laboratory Technology Bachelor's Degrees

A bachelor's degree in medical laboratory technology typically prepares graduates to become a medical laboratory technologist. Technologists perform similar tasks to technicians, but they have additional responsibilities and may run more complex tests. Medical laboratory technologists may also have to work with hazardous specimens and must wear the proper safety gear. They also may oversee medical laboratory technicians and work in research.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Standard career path pays better than average*
  • Specialization available (microbiology, immunology, phlebotomy, etc.)*
  • Able to work in research**

Cons

  • May have to deal with hazardous specimens*
  • Some positions may require night or weekend work*
  • Job growth slightly less than average (11% from 2010-2020)*

Sources: *BLS, **University of Michigan-Flint.

Common Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree in medical laboratory technology typically requires approximately 125 credit hours worth of coursework. This tends to be a combination of medical laboratory technology courses, general education requirements and clinical experience.

Some classes you may take include:

  • Medical terminology
  • Immunohemotology
  • Microbiology
  • Biomedical ethics
  • Organic chemistry

Online Degree Options

Although they are less common than associate's degree options, some schools do offer online bachelor's degrees. These degrees are typically offered at universities, which also offer the degree on-campus. They may be geared towards students who have already earned an associate's degree and are currently working in the field.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Like with an associate's degree, the BLS recommends certification for medical laboratory technologists. The ASCP and AMT also offer specialization certifications. For example, aside from medical laboratory scientist certification, ASCP also has certifications in eight different specializations. Typically, ASCP requires a bachelor's degree and some training in the specialization of choice, while AMT offers a medical technologist certification.

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