Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Work Environment: Many clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work in hospitals. Others work in medical and diagnostic laboratories or doctors' offices.

How to Become One: Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor's degree. Technicians usually need an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.

Salary: The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is $52,330.

Job Outlook: Overall employment of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians with similar occupations.

What Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians Do[About this section] [To Top]

Clinical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and clinical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

Duties of Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Analyze body fluids, such as blood, urine, and tissue samples, and record normal or abnormal findings
  • Study blood samples for use in transfusions by identifying the number of cells, the cell morphology or the blood group, blood type, and compatibility with other blood types
  • Operate sophisticated laboratory equipment, such as microscopes and cell counters
  • Use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests at the same time
  • Log data from medical tests and enter results into a patient's medical record
  • Discuss results and findings of laboratory tests and procedures with physicians

Both technicians and technologists perform tests and procedures that physicians and surgeons or other healthcare personnel order. However, technologists perform more complex tests and laboratory procedures than technicians do. For example, technologists may prepare specimens and perform detailed manual tests, whereas technicians perform routine tests that may be more automated. Clinical laboratory technicians usually work under the general supervision of clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers.

Technologists in small laboratories perform many types of tests; in large laboratories, they sometimes specialize. The following are examples of types of specialized clinical laboratory technologists:

Blood bank technologists, or immunohematology technologists, collect blood, classify it by type, and prepare blood and its components for transfusions.

Clinical chemistry technologists prepare specimens and analyze the chemical and hormonal contents of body fluids.

Cytotechnologists prepare slides of body cells and examine these cells under a microscope for abnormalities that may signal the beginning of a cancerous growth.

Immunology technologists examine elements of the human immune system and its response to foreign bodies.

Microbiology technologists examine and identify bacteria and other microorganisms.

Molecular biology technologists perform complex protein and nucleic acid tests on cell samples.

Like technologists, clinical laboratory technicians may work in several areas of the laboratory or specialize in one area. For example, histotechnicians are a type of clinical laboratory technician who cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists—doctors who study the cause and development of diseases at a microscopic level.

Technologists and technicians often specialize after they have worked in a particular area for a long time or have received advanced education or training in that area.

Work Environment for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians hold about 331,700 jobs. The largest employers of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians are as follows:

General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private 48%
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 19%
Offices of physicians 9%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 6%
Outpatient care centers 3%

Clinical laboratory personnel are trained to work with infectious specimens or with materials that are caustic or produce fumes. When they follow proper methods to control infection and sterilize equipment, the risk decreases. They wear protective masks, gloves, and goggles for their safety.

Technologists and technicians can be on their feet for long periods, and they may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples.

Injuries and Illnesses for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians risk injury or illness on the job. For example, they may be subject to repetitive motion injuries because they do the same tasks repeatedly.

Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technician Work Schedules

Most clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.

How to Become a Medical or Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians near you!

Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor's degree. Technicians usually need an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.

Find a Degree:


Education for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

An entry-level job for technologists usually requires a bachelor's degree in medical technology or life sciences.

A bachelor's degree program in medical laboratory technology, also known as a medical laboratory scientist degree, includes courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, and statistics. Students typically complete college coursework and then apply to the clinical portion of the program. Coursework emphasizes laboratory skills, including safety procedures and lab management, while the clinical portion includes hands-on training in a typical work setting like a hospital. Some laboratory science programs can be completed in 2 years or less and require prior college coursework or a bachelor's degree.

Clinical laboratory technicians often complete an associate's degree program in clinical laboratory science. The Armed Forces and vocational or technical schools also may offer certificate programs for medical laboratory technicians. Technician coursework addresses the theoretical and practical aspects of each of the major laboratory disciplines.

High school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the medical laboratory sciences should take classes in chemistry, biology, and math.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed. Requirements vary by state and specialty. For specific requirements, contact state departments of health, state boards of occupational licensing, or visit The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.

Certification of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is required for licensure in some states. Although certification is not required to enter the occupation in all cases, employers typically prefer to hire certified technologists and technicians.

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians can obtain a general certification as a medical laboratory technologist or technician, respectively, or a certification in a specialty, such as cytotechnology or medical biology. Most credentialing institutions require that technologists complete an accredited education program in order to qualify to sit for an exam. For more credentialing information, visit the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, American Medical Technologists, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Important Qualities for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Ability to use technology. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must understand how to operate computerized lab equipment.

Detail oriented. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must follow exact instructions in order to perform tests or procedures correctly.

Dexterity. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians need to be skilled with their hands. They work closely with needles and precision laboratory instruments and must handle these tools effectively.

Physical stamina. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians may work on their feet for long periods while collecting samples. They may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples for testing.

Advancement for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

After additional education, work experience, or certification, technologists and technicians may specialize in one of many areas of laboratory science, such as immunology, histotechnology, or clinical chemistry. Some clinical laboratory technicians advance to technologist positions after gaining experience and additional education. Some colleges have bachelor's degree programs for medical laboratory technicians to become technologists (often referred to as MLT to MLS programs).

Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technician Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is $52,330. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,330.

The median annual wages for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private $55,040
Outpatient care centers $50,520
Medical and diagnostic laboratories $50,040
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $50,010
Offices of physicians $47,060

Most clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that are always open, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.

Job Outlook for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures. Prenatal testing for various types of genetic conditions also is increasingly common. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians will be in demand to use and maintain the equipment needed for diagnosis and treatment.

Job Prospects for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Job prospects will be best for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians who complete an accredited education program and earn professional certification.

Employment projections data for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, 2018-28
Occupational Title Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28
Percent Numeric
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians 331,700 366,800 11 35,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: