Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist

Biochemistry Technologist, Blood Bank Laboratory Technologist, Blood Bank Technologist   More Names
Chemistry Technologist, Chief Medical Technologist, Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS), Clinical Laboratory Technologist, Clinical Research Assistant, Clinical Research Associate, Clinical Researcher, Cytogenetic Technologist, Cytologist, Cytotechnologist, Differential Specialist, Hematology Technologist, Histologist Technologist, Histotechnologist, Immunohematologist, Laboratory Specialist (Lab Specialist), Laboratory Supervisor, Laboratory Technologist (Lab Tech), Medical and Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists, Medical Chief Technician, Medical Laboratory Technologist (Medical Lab Tech), Medical Numerical Control Operator, Medical Technologist (MT), Medical Technologist Teaching Supervisor, Medical Technologist, Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Microbiologist, Microbiology Technologist, Pathology Laboratory Technologist, Research Assistant, Tissue Technologist
Description

Perform complex medical laboratory tests for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Conduct chemical analysis of body fluids, such as blood, urine, and spinal fluid to determine presence of normal and abnormal components. Review and analyze laboratory findings to check the accuracy of the results. Enter data from analysis of medical tests and clinical results into computer data files for storage. May also train or supervise staff.

Medical and clinical laboratory scientists (this is the new name that now is commonly used by practitioners in place of medical and clinical laboratory technologists) are employed in hospital laboratories, physician and other private laboratories and clinics, industrial medical laboratories, and in various medical and clinical laboratories operated by federal, state, or local government agencies. Medical and clinical laboratory scientists examine and analyze body fluids, tissues, and cells in a laboratory setting. The samples they analyze are provided by physicians as well as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, dentists, public health professionals, and others. They look for bacteria, fungi, 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. They also prepare specimens for examination, count cells, and look for abnormal cells in blood and body fluids.

In their daily work, 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 all at the same time. After testing and examining a specimen, they evaluate test results and inform the requesting physician or other healthcare practitioner on what they are. They also may provide technical information about test results to family members and medical researcher staff.

Medical and clinical laboratory scientists help to establish and monitor quality assurance programs and activities to ensure the accuracy of laboratory results. They help to set up, clean, and maintain laboratory equipment, and ensure that proper safety procedures are implemented to prevent the spread of infectious disease or contamination of laboratory samples.

More experienced medical and clinical laboratory scientists also may supervise or train laboratory assistants, medical and clinical laboratory technicians, as well as other less experienced medical and clinical laboratory scientists.

A medical and clinical laboratory scientist can perform laboratory tests and procedures in several different disciplines within the clinical laboratory. These can include areas such as clinical chemistry, microbiology, hematology, immunology, transfusion services, molecular biology, and urinalysis. In clinical chemistry, they prepare specimens and analyze the chemical contents of body fluids. In microbiology, they identify microorganisms and determine which antibiotic will be most effective against the organism. In hematology, they examine blood and bone marrow identifying and quantifying the types of cells present, which aids in the identification of leukemias, anemias, and bleeding disorders. In immunology, elements of the human immune system and its response to foreign bodies are examined. Medical and clinical laboratory scientists in transfusion services determine which blood product will be the best match for a patient in need of blood products. In molecular biology, they perform complex protein and nucleic acid testing on a variety of samples. The urinalysis performed by a medical and clinical laboratory scientist provides information about the composition of urine, kidney function, and urinary tract infections.

Medical and clinical laboratory scientists need to have good analytical judgment, the ability to work under pressure, and have good problem solving skills. Close attention to detail is also essential for laboratory personnel because small differences or changes in test substances or numerical readouts can be crucial to a diagnosis. Manual dexterity is highly desirable and the ability to see fine detail is important, and with the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment, computer skills also are important.

Medical and clinical laboratory scientists, technicians, and laboratory assistants are all trained to work safely with infectious specimens. When proper methods of infection control and sterilization are followed, hazards can be minimized. Some of the kinds of protective equipment often used are masks, gloves, and goggles.

The career of medical and clinical laboratory scientist is a mid-level position on the laboratory career ladder for someone with a bachelor's or master's degree. With experience, a medical and clinical laboratory scientist may move up to a supervisory position, and with further management training may become a laboratory manager for a hospital or other large clinical laboratory.

Credentials Needed: Some states require medical and clinical laboratory scientists to be licensed to practice in the state. As of mid-2011, the following twelve states had such licensing requirements: California; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Louisiana; Montana; Nevada; New York; North Dakota; Rhode Island; Tennessee; and West Virginia. This list will update periodically, so it is a good idea to check with your state to see if they have current licensing requirements to work as a medical and clinical laboratory scientist.Information on licensure is available from State departments of health or boards of occupational licensing. The "Education & Training - Find Programs" link for this career also includes direct links to a number of these states that license medical and clinical laboratory scientists. Licensure of medical and clinical laboratory scientists often requires a bachelor's degree and certification, but requirements vary by state, specialty and the certification that is accepted by a state.

Many employers prefer, and some may require, that entry-level medical and clinical laboratory scientists - as well as current employees - have or obtain an appropriate voluntary industry-based certification in the clinical laboratory field. There are a number of associations that offer such credentialing. These include the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Medical Technologists (AMT), and American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB). Each of these organizations has different certification requirements and several sponsor multiple general and specialty credentials. When checking state licensing or employer requirements, it may be helpful also to find out if there is a preference for one or more of these different credentials or certification sponsors.

Some Key Things to Remember: Medical and clinical laboratory scientists perform complex medical laboratory tests for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. They conduct chemical analysis of body fluids, including blood, urine, and spinal fluid, to determine the presence of normal and abnormal components. They also review and analyze laboratory findings to check the accuracy of the results.

A four year bachelor's degree in medical and clinical laboratory science, or a bachelor's degree in one of the life sciences with additional medical laboratory education, is generally required for an entry-level position as a medical and clinical laboratory scientist. About a quarter of the states require these laboratory scientists to be licensed. Industry-based certification plays a highly important role in this occupation.

Preceding written narrative as well as that for the Education & Training narrative section reviewed for content and accuracy by Donna J. Spannaus-Martin, Ph.D., MLS, Professor of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Minnesota, January 17, 2012.

More Details
Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
14% - Average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $51,370 - $73,760    Hourly: $25 - $35
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

Manual dexterity is highly desirable and the ability to see fine detail is important.

Legal Requirements
General/Nationwide
State-Specific
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)
 
      

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Bachelor's Degree (High School + 4 or more Years)
Find Programs

Percent Job Growth:

14% - Average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $51,370 - $73,760

Hourly: $25 - $35