Study Phlebotomy: Certifications, Associate & Online Training Info

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What will you learn in a phlebotomy training program? Read about education requirements, the pros and cons of a degree or certificate and potential careers.
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Phlebotomy Certification, Associate & Online Degrees at a Glance

Phlebotomy training programs teach you how to draw blood specimens by venipuncture. To work in this field, phlebotomists generally need formal training, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While not required by all employers, aspiring phlebotomists can also pursue national certification. Some states may also require phlebotomists to obtain a license. Aspiring phlebotomists can find certificate programs that prepare them for certification exams. Medical assistant associate degree programs are also available and can prepare you for a wider range of responsibility in assisting physicians. The BLS predicts that jobs for medical laboratory technicians, including phlebotomists, will only grow at an average pace of 15% between 2010 and 2020. Students trained in phlebotomy who want to work as medical assistants can expect better employment growth. The BLS projects that employment of medical assistants could increase at a faster-than-average rate of 31% from 2010-2020.

Certificate Associate
Who is this program for? Individuals who want to get certified and work as phlebotomists Those who want to perform expanded duties assisting doctors in hospitals and medical offices
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) Phlebotomist ($29,700)*
Medical Assistant ($29,900)*
Time to Completion 1-2 semesters 2 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - 4-7 courses
- 120 hours of clinical work
- 60 credit hours
- Completion of practicum, clinicals or internship
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED certificate
- Proof of certain medical vaccinations
- High school diploma or GED certificate
- Proof of certain medical vaccinations
Online Availability None found at this time, although online courses are available for practicing phlebotomists Yes

Source: *Salary.com (July 2012)

Certificate in Phlebotomy

After earning a phlebotomy certificate, you can work as a phlebotomist, taking blood samples from patients in hospitals, clinics, private labs, doctors' offices and blood donation centers. You'll also be prepared to take national certification exams through various organizations, including the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals (ACA) and the National Phlebotomy Association. In addition to your time spent in the classroom, you'll be expected to participate in many hours of clinical work to gain hands-on experience in the field. These clinical hours are required in order to become certified. For example, the ACA requires phlebotomy technicians to have at least 100 hours of experience prior to taking the certification exam. Due to the nature of the work, you will be required to have current vaccinations and undergo a background check before most schools will admit you to their phlebotomy certification programs or allow you to participate in clinical experiences.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Most certificate programs can be completed in a year or less
  • Opportunity to work with a variety of people (patients, other medical professionals)
  • Wide range of workplace settings to choose from, including physicians' offices, hospitals, laboratories and home health agencies

Cons

  • Phlebotomists come in contact with potentially infectious bodily fluids and tissues
  • Pay in this field can be low*
  • Phlebotomists can be on their feet for long periods of time and may need to lift and turn immobile patients
  • Depending on your workplace, you may need to work nights and weekends

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Students in certificate programs in phlebotomy take basic and advanced courses where they learn how to collect blood from patients of all ages. Venipuncture and capillary puncture are both covered in these programs. Coursework includes training on lab equipment, instrumentation, computer systems and lab procedures. Students learn about the basics of the human circulatory system, quality control and proper safety and handling techniques of blood specimens. Students gain hands-on training during required clinical rounds.

Online Options

Due to the hands-on nature of phlebotomy work, online certification programs are not currently available. Certificate programs that prepare students for certification exams require extensive clinical experiences, which require students to be present at hospitals or other medical settings. However, practicing phlebotomists can take online continuing education courses.

Getting Ahead with this Certificate

The BLS reports that many employers look for applicants who are certified in this field. Once you've finished your certificate program, you can prepare to take national certification exams offered by various organizations. Some options for certification include the Certified Phlebotomy Technician offered by ACA and the Phlebotomy Technician from the ASCP. In order to maintain your certification, you'll need to take continuing education classes throughout the course of your career.

Medical Assistant Associate Degree

While an associate degree in phlebotomy isn't available, a medical assistant associate degree with a phlebotomy specialization allows you to draw blood specimens while also assisting doctors with other tasks involved in examining and treating patients. Fulfilling administrative duties such as scheduling and taking patients' medical histories, as well as recording vital signs, sterilizing instruments, administering medicine and assisting with minor procedures are just some of the duties you'll be able to perform after getting your associate degree in medical assisting. As with a certificate in phlebotomy, once you've completed your associate degree, you'll be prepared to take a national certification exam in phlebotomy as well as become certified as a medical assistant through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employment for medical assistants was expected to grow at a faster-than-average pace between 2010 and 2020*
  • Medical assistants work in clean, well-lighted work environments
  • Ability to perform multiple tasks, in addition to drawing blood

Cons

  • Medical assistants with a specialization in phlebotomy come in contact with potentially infectious bodily fluids and tissues
  • While many medical assistants only need a high school diploma to work in this field, those who want to specialize in phlebotomy require additional education*
  • Depending on where you are employed as a medical assistant, you may have to work nights and weekends

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

In associate degree programs, you'll be expected to take general education courses such as English and biology. While some medical assisting programs offer a specialization in phlebotomy, others offer a specific course in blood draws. Other courses in these programs include:

  • Medical terminology
  • Medical transcription
  • Laboratory procedures
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical ethics
  • Clinical science

You'll also complete an internship or practicum to earn your degree or you may be required to participate in clinical experiences.

Online Degree Options

You can earn a medical assistant associate degree through online study. These programs offer you the same courses and program of study that are available through on-campus programs. However, these programs are not as common as on-campus programs because of the hands-on experiences required to earn this degree.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

According to the BLS, the use of electronic healthcare records is increasing in doctor's offices and hospitals. Aspiring medical assistants can stand out among applicants if they seek out training on electronic healthcare records software. Graduates can also take national certification exams in phlebotomy as well as medical assisting. Although not required in all states, employers prefer certified medical assistants. To become a certified medical assistant, you'll need to apply for and take an exam after completing a formal training program.

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