5 Big Reasons to Pursue a Career in Medical Laboratory Technology
What does a medical lab tech do? How much does a lab tech make? And why should anyone consider building a career in this area of healthcare? These are all great questions. You'll find the answers as you explore the following major advantages of choosing this path:
1. A Daily Sense of Pride and Satisfaction
The work performed in medical laboratories is super-important. Without diagnostic testing on blood, tissue, and bodily fluid samples, countless people would have their diseases go undetected until it was too late. And many others wouldn't receive proper treatment for what ails them. In fact, over 70 percent of all medical decisions made by doctors and other health practitioners are guided by the information gleaned from clinical laboratory tests.*
As a result, medical lab techs contribute to the prevention and early detection of many kinds of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, HIV, and various genetic conditions. Patients receive more timely and accurate diagnoses. And doctors are often able to provide targeted therapies and prescribe the medications that are most effective and have the fewest side effects.
Simply put, as a medical laboratory technician, you might help people live longer and enjoy greater well-being. What could be more meaningful?
2. An Exceptional Job Outlook
The demand for laboratory testing is expected to keep rising as America's population of elderly patients increases over the next few decades. As people live longer, they are often at higher risk of developing chronic diseases. Plus, many new technologies and lab procedures are being invented that allow a greater range of illnesses to be detected and monitored through diagnostic testing.
That's why the employment of medical lab technicians is projected to grow by 18 percent between 2014 and 2024.** And that could mean being able to enjoy enhanced career stability.
3. Plenty of Room for Advancement and Specialization
Professionals in the medical laboratory sector often get to take advantage of opportunities to advance their careers or pursue their biggest areas of interest. That's because labs are generally staffed by a mix of technicians, technologists, specialty lab techs, and lab managers. So as you gain experience or extra education, you can move into a role that provides even greater satisfaction. For example, look at how the roles differ in each type of position:
- Medical laboratory technicians primarily carry out routine lab tests that involve using automated equipment. In some cases, they also collect the blood, urine, or other types of samples that they test. So, many are skilled in phlebotomy. You generally only need an associate's degree or similar credential in medical lab technology to work at this level.
- Medical laboratory technologists carry out more complex lab tests by following detailed procedures and mostly using manual methods and equipment like microscopes. Many of them also help train and supervise lab technicians. Most people at this level hold at least a bachelor's degree.
- Specialized lab techs focus on testing only particular types of specimens. For instance, it's possible to specialize in areas related to blood, clinical chemistry, cancer cell detection, the immune system, bacteria and viruses, and molecular biology.
- Medical lab managers oversee the staffing and operations of a testing facility while helping to ensure that all necessary protocols are followed.
4. Potential for Outstanding Pay
A lot of people who work in this field earn comfortable incomes. For example, the average medical laboratory technician salary in the U.S. was $41,420 in 2015. And some lab technicians earned more than $60,810.***
Advancing in this field can result in even higher salaries. In 2015, clinical and medical lab technologists made $61,860, on average, with many earning over $84,300.***
Plus, earning professional certifications can also lead to increased pay. Of course, in many states, lab techs are required to be licensed or certified. But in states where it's voluntary, it can still pay off to earn your medical laboratory technician certification. After all, certified lab professionals tend to make higher wages than their colleagues who aren't certified.****
Certification can be attained from organizations like American Medical Technologists and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
5. An Appealing Variety of Possible Employers
About half of all medical and clinical lab techs work in hospitals.** But America has more than 322,480 clinical labs, and about eight out of every ten of them are considered small businesses.* So you don't necessarily have to work for a large facility if it doesn't fit your personality. In fact, many lab techs are employed in private laboratories, doctors' offices, education and research institutions, outpatient care centers, and various types of special health facilities such as blood donation centers.
Want to Get Started?
Begin by finding a nearby medical laboratory technician school. It's as easy as entering your current zip code into the simple search tool below!
* American Clinical Laboratory Association, website last visited on August 31, 2015.
** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on May 5, 2016.
*** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, website last visited on March 2, 2016.
**** American Society for Clinical Pathology, website last visited on August 31, 2015.