Cytotechnologist

Certified Cytotechnologist, Cytologist, Cytology Laboratory Manager (Cytology Lab Manager)   More Names
Cytology Manager, Cytology Supervisor, Cytopathology Technologist, Cytotechnologist, Cytotechnologist Supervisor, Cytotechnologist/Cytology Supervisor, Cytotechnologists, Senior Cytotechnologist, Specimen Preparation Assistant, Staff Cytotechnologist, Technical Specialist, Cytology
Description

Detect and evaluate cells from tissues and organs of the body for microscopic examination and diagnosis by pathologists who look for abnormalities or diseases, such as cancer. Also may help to prepare cytologic specimens or supervise others who prepare and stain the cellular material.

Cytotechnologists work with pathologists to evaluate cellular material from nearly all parts of the body, primarily through use of the microscope. They also may assist pathologists and other physicians in collecting cell samples such as by fine needle biopsies.

Cytotechnologists are employed in hospital laboratories and commercial laboratories, and in some clinics, universities, and medical and clinical public health facilities run by federal, state, or local government agencies. Some also work for research, pharmaceutical and forensic laboratories.

Cytology involves the study of the structure and the function of cells. Cytotechnologists are specially trained technologists who work with pathologists to evaluate cellular material from virtually all body sites primarily through use of a microscope.

Of key importance to them is the microscopic recognition of normal and abnormal cytologic (i.e., cellular) changes, including malignant neoplasms, precancerous lesions, infectious agents, and inflammatory processes in gynecologic, non-gynecologic, and fine needle aspiration specimens. They have the technical skills for a wide variety of cytologic laboratory specimen preparations.

Cell specimens may be obtained from a variety of body organs and tissues, such as the female reproductive tract, the lung, or any body cavity shedding cells. Using special techniques, slides are first prepared from these specimens. Cytotechnologists then examine the slides microscopically, mark cellular changes that are most representative of a disease process, and then submit these to a pathologist for final evaluation.

Using the findings of cytotechnologists, pathologists are better able to successfully diagnose cancer and other diseases long before they can be detected by other methods. In recent years, fine needles have been used to aspirate lesions, often deeply seated in the body, thus greatly enhancing the ability to diagnose tumors located in otherwise inaccessible sites.

Within the overall clinical laboratory field, cytotechnologist is an entry-level occupation for someone who fulfills the bachelor's degree minimum education and training requirements before seeking employment. It can also serve as a mid-level step-up for someone who starts out with less education and training, for example, as a histologic technician or medical and clinical laboratory technician. Alternatively, it can be a cross-training opportunity for a histotechnologist or medical and clinical laboratory technologist. In addition, those having administrative interests also may go on to become supervisors or managers.

In all cases, however, individuals interested in a career as a cytotechnologist must go through a Commission on Accrediation of Allied Health Education (CAAHEP) approved and training program and either have or obtain a bachelor's degree in order to take the certifying examination needed to work in this career.

Credentials Needed: Licensing regulations vary from state-to-state and will update periodically. As a result, it is a good idea to check with your state before beginning your studies to see if they have current licensing requirements to work as a cytotechnologist.

Some states currently require cytotechnologists to be licensed to practice, but many do not have licensing or registration regulations. However, earning a voluntary nationally recognized, industry-based certification is highly recommended in whatever state a cytotechnologist may choose to work because all cytopathology laboratories regulated under the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988 may only employ certified cytotechnologists who have earned the designation of CT (ASCP) by successfully taking this national certification examination given by the American Society for Clinical Pathology. After completion of a bachelor's degree education program and cytotechnology training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), an individual is eligible to take the national CT certification examination for cytotechnologists sponsored by the ASCP. Successful completion of this examination indicates attainment of entry-level proficiency in this field, and an individual is then recognized as a certified cytotechnologist. The complete eligibility requirements for the CT certification are available on the ASCP website.

Some Key Things to Remember: Cytotechnologists do the preliminary work of evaluating cells from tissues and organs of the body for microscopic examination and diagnosis by pathologists who look for abnormalities or diseases, such as cancer. They work with pathologists to evaluate cellular material from nearly all parts of the body, primarily through use of the microscope. They must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and many have a master's degree in cytotechnology. Many states do not require licensure or registration to work in these occupations, but earning a voluntary industry-based certification is a requirement for working in all laboratories regulated by the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988.

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

Minimal. Requires the ability to keep hand or arms steady. Requires the ability to put together small parts with fingers.

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)
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Percent Job Growth:

14% - Average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $51,370 - $73,760

Hourly: $25 - $35