- Faster than average employment growth and excellent job opportunities
- Clinical laboratory technologists usually have a bachelors degree
with a major in medical technology or in one of the life sciences; clinical
laboratory technicians generally need either an associate degree or a
- Most jobs will continue to be in hospitals, but employment will grow
faster in other settings.
Clinical laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis,
and treatment of disease. Clinical laboratory technologistsalso referred to
as clinical laboratory scientists or medical technologists and clinical
laboratory technicians, also known as medical technicians or medical laboratory
technicians, perform most of these tests.
Clinical laboratory personnel examine and analyze body fluids, and cells.
They look for bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms; analyze the
chemical content of fluids; match blood for transfusions; and test for drug
levels in the blood that show how a patient is responding to treatment.
Technologists also prepare specimens for examination, count cells, and look for
abnormal cells in blood and body fluids. They use microscopes, cell counters,
and other sophisticated laboratory equipment. They also use automated equipment
and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests
simultaneously. After testing and examining a specimen, they analyze the results
and relay them to physicians.
With increasing automation and the use of computer technology, the work of
technologists and technicians has become less hands-on and more analytical. The
complexity of tests performed, the level of judgment needed, and the amount of
responsibility workers assume depend largely on the amount of education and
experience they have. Clinical laboratory technologists usually do more complex
tasks than clinical laboratory technicians do.
Clinical laboratory technologists perform complex chemical,
biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological tests.
Technologists microscopically examine blood and other body fluids. They make
cultures of body fluid and tissue samples, to determine the presence of
bacteria, fungi, parasites, or other microorganisms. Technologists analyze
samples for chemical content or a chemical reaction and determine concentrations
of compounds such as blood glucose and cholesterol levels. They also type and
cross match blood samples for transfusions.
Clinical laboratory technologists evaluate test results, develop and modify
procedures, and establish and monitor programs, to ensure the accuracy of tests.
Some technologists supervise clinical laboratory technicians.
Technologists in small laboratories perform many types of tests, whereas
those in large laboratories generally specialize. Clinical chemistry
technologists, for example, prepare specimens and analyze the chemical and
hormonal contents of body fluids. Microbiology technologists examine and
identify bacteria and other microorganisms. Blood bank technologists, or
immunohematology technologists, collect, type, and prepare blood and its
components for transfusions. Immunology technologists examine elements of the
human immune system and its response to foreign bodies. Cytotechnologists
prepare slides of body cells and examine these cells microscopically for
abnormalities that may signal the beginning of a cancerous growth. Molecular
biology technologists perform complex protein and nucleic acid testing on cell
Clinical laboratory technicians perform less complex tests and
laboratory procedures than technologists do. Technicians may prepare specimens
and operate automated analyzers, for example, or they may perform manual tests
in accordance with detailed instructions. They usually work under the
supervision of medical and clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory
managers. Like technologists, clinical laboratory technicians may work in
several areas of the clinical laboratory or specialize in just one.
Phlebotomists collect blood samples, for example, and histotechnicians cut and
stain tissue specimens for microscopic examination by pathologists.
Work environment. Clinical laboratory personnel are trained to
work with infectious specimens. When proper methods of infection control and
sterilization are followed, few hazards exist. Protective masks, gloves, and
goggles often are necessary to ensure the safety of laboratory personnel.
Working conditions vary with the size and type of employment setting.
Laboratories usually are well lighted and clean; however, specimens, solutions,
and reagents used in the laboratory sometimes produce fumes. Laboratory workers
may spend a great deal of time on their feet.
Hours of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians vary with the size
and type of employment setting. In large hospitals or in independent
laboratories that operate continuously, personnel usually work the day, evening,
or night shift and may work weekends and holidays. Laboratory personnel in small
facilities may work on rotating shifts, rather than on a regular shift. In some
facilities, laboratory personnel are on call several nights a week or on
weekends, in case of an emergency.