Becoming a Medical Technologist: Job Description & Salary Info

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A medical technologist's median annual salary is about $59,000, but is it worth the education requirements and debt? Get the truth about job duties and career outlook to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Medical Technologist Career

Job opportunities for medical technologists--who collect and test samples for medical and clinical studies--are expected to be high, which makes a career in the field a good choice for those who enjoy helping others. Evaluate the pros and cons of a career as a medical technologist to make an informed decision.

Pros of a Medical Technologist Career
Job opportunities exist in medical facilities and medical supply manufacturers*
Opportunities for advancement to supervisory positions available*
Field with higher than average job growth (14% job growth between 2012 and 2022)*
Options for specialization*

Cons of a Medical Technologist Career
Expose workers to fumes from use of chemicals*
Work hours can include weekends and nights*
Some states require licensing*
High pressure position*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Medical technologists work in laboratories testing body fluids, tissues and cells to determine the level of drugs or the presence of bacteria or microorganisms. Laboratory technologists use microscopes and other medical equipment to produce their test results. They also analyze the results of the tests and pass the information to physicians for medical diagnosis. Some medical technologists direct the activities of lab personnel, such as medical technicians. Technologists also maintain the laboratory equipment and the integrity of the lab by performing quality control and calibration procedures.

Career Paths and Specializations

Some medical technologists specialize in a particular type of laboratory testing. For example, microbiology technologists analyze body fluids for microorganisms and bacteria. Immunohematology technologists work to prepare blood for transfusions, and cytotechnologists prepare and analyze cells for signs of cancer. Other types of medical technologists who specialize include immunology, molecular biology and blood bank technologists. Those who do not specialize may perform a variety of tests on body fluids and cells in the lab.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), growth in employment opportunities for lab workers between 2012 and 2022 was expected to be 14% (www.bls.gov). The BLS further reports that the number of job opportunities for medical technologists was expected to be high because there would be more available jobs than trained lab workers. The median annual salary for a medical technologist in 2014 was about $59,000, according to the BLS.

Education Requirements

The BLS reports the education requirement for a laboratory technologist is usually a bachelor's degree in a life science or medical technology, but some workers qualify with less education and more on-the-job training. Some medical technology positions require a minimum of an associate's degree regardless of the applicant's experience in the laboratory. Students in a medical technology program study chemistry, microbiology, math and statistics in addition to courses specific to clinical laboratory training.

Licensing

States might also require licensure for medical technologists, which applicants qualify for with a bachelor's degree and successfully passing an examination. Additional requirements vary by state but should be available through boards of occupational licensing or departments of health for each state.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Medical laboratory technologists must have a strong attention to detail and analytical skills to work in the position. Employers look for job candidates with current knowledge of laboratory testing equipment and procedures. Below are some examples of medical technologist job postings available in March 2012:

  • An Arizona employer is searching for a medical technologist to perform and analyze laboratory tests to assist in the diagnosis of patients. In addition, the successful job candidate will supervise technical employees, perform control checks, maintain lab equipment and assist with patient care. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in medical technology and experience in the field to qualify for the position.
  • An employer in North Carolina is seeking a medical technologist to perform a variety of laboratory tests that assist physicians in the diagnosis of diseases. The worker must analyze and report lab results, perform quality control and assist in the maintenance of lab equipment. The minimum requirements for the position is a medical laboratory technician associate's degree and three years of work experience as a medical technologist, though this employer prefers candidates with a bachelor's degree in medical technology or clinical laboratory science and two years of experience in a technologist position.
  • An employer in Arizona is looking for medical technologists to perform laboratory tests, evaluate results and report findings to physicians. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in medical technology, national or state certification and experience in immunoassay and hematology with phlebotomy skills.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Automated laboratory equipment make computer skills for medical laboratory technologists advantageous when searching for a position. Analytical skills and the capacity to handle a high-pressure work environment are preferred traits for job candidates.

Get Certified

Employers might prefer medical technologists with certifications from the American Medical Technologists, the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology or the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel. Medical technologists must complete education requirements that might include clinical laboratory training as part of the curriculum. In addition to meeting the education requirements, national organizations also require applicants to pass an examination to qualify for the credential.

Alternative Career Paths

Medical Laboratory Technician

If you enjoy science and working in a laboratory, but the bachelor's degree requirement is a deterrent, medical laboratory technicians also work in a clinical lab and perform many of the same duties as medical technologists. Since the duties of a technician are not as complex as the technologist's work, the education requirement is a two-year degree or the completion of a certificate program from a hospital or vocational school. Job candidates who meet the requirements for a laboratory technician might be able to work in that position while completing the education requirement for a technologist career.

Science Technicians

An associate's degree in applied science can qualify students for some positions as a science technician, though biological and forensic science technician positions might still require a bachelor's degree education. Science technicians can specialize in different areas, such as agriculture and food, chemistry, biology, environmental science, geology or forensics. Technicians assist scientists in research, product development and testing.

Scientist

Students with an interest in science and chemistry may prefer a career as a scientist. Chemists with a bachelor's degree might work in chemical manufacturing or the pharmaceutical industry. According to the BLS, a graduate degree is required to work in research and development, but scientists with a four-year degree may qualify for an entry-level position.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Herzing University

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    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
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      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
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      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
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    2. Keiser University

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    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Campus Locations:
    3. Brightwood College

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    Associate's
      • Medical Assistant - AS
    Certificate
      • Medical Assistant - Certificate
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      • Pharmacy Technician Certificate
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    4. Northcentral University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
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    5. American InterContinental University

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      • Master of Healthcare Management
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    6. Utica College

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    7. Colorado Technical University

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      • MS - Healthcare Management
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  • Online Programs Available
    8. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster High School

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    Certificate
      • High School with Pharmacy Technician Pathway
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      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
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  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Healthcare Administration

Featured Schools

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Brightwood College

  • Medical Assistant - AS
  • Medical Assistant - Certificate
  • Medical Assistant - Diploma

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.

Are you a US citizen?

Utica College

  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Masters in Health Care Administration
  • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

Are you a US citizen?

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?