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, the American Clinical Laboratory Association says that over 70 percent of all medical decisions made by doctors and other health practitioners are guided by the information gleaned from clinical laboratory tests.
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. Thanks to the efforts of these professionals, 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.
In fact, the Occupational Outlook Handbook says that employment of medical and clinical lab technicians and technologists is projected to grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026. 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 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, according to Occupational Employment Statistics program data, the average medical laboratory technician salary in the U.S. was $53,880 in 2018. And some lab technicians earned more than $80,330.
Plus, earning professional certifications from organizations like American Medical Technologists and the American Society for Clinical Pathology can lead to increased pay. In many states, lab techs are required to be licensed or certified. But even in states where certification is voluntary, it can still pay off.
5. An Appealing Variety of Possible Employers
About half of all medical and clinical lab techs work in hospitals. But 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.
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