Become a Medical Lab Technician: Training and Education Required

Medical lab technician training usually takes two years to complete and will prepare you for work in hospitals, physician's offices and diagnostic testing laboratories.

Education

Most medical lab technicians have completed a two year associate's degree from a post-secondary institution that offers training in this field. According to College Navigator, there are over two hundred and fifty schools in the US that offer training to become a medical lab technician. When selecting the school to attend, make sure that your school is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

Once you have completed your degree, you can pursue certification with American Medical Technologists (AMT). You will need to write and pass an examination to attain certification. AMT does recognize the fifty week US military laboratory procedures training, if earned in an accredited college or transferred to an accredited program.

License

The local state board of health will provide information about licensing for medical lab technicians. You should also make sure that if you complete your education in one state but would like to work in a different state or territory, that the licensing board where you wish to work will recognize your training. You can usually get this information by visiting the website, or by calling or emailing the local board and asking if they will recognize your degree program or if there is any additional training that you need to pursue. Having completed a nationally recognized certification course such as the AMT for medical lab technicians may be an asset in this case.

Tips and Advice

If you are currently in high school, completing and passing courses in chemistry and biology will be an asset when you apply for entrance into a post-secondary program to become a medical lab technician. If you need to upgrade before entering a progam in this field, these are the courses that you should be focused on and where you should try to get the highest marks.

While in college, look for every opportunity to perform procedures hands-on. Completing your homework should be your bare minimum, so any additional lab time you can put in will make you stand out from your peers who are graduating into the workforce with you.

Not all of your time will be spent in the lab, since as a technician you will be required to collect samples from patients. It can help to have a calming manner and the ability to deal with people politely, and even to explain what you are doing to help put their minds at ease. In this case, customer service experience, experience dealing with people in distress, even general hospital volunteer experience can be assets.

Different Types

Medical lab technicians work in hospitals, physician's offices and in medical laboratories. They can be generalists in their field or they can specialize. Specialties include histology which is the study of the cells and tissues of plants and animals, and which can be employed in histopathology, where the technician looks for cell abnormalities, such as cancer. Another specialty is microbiology where the technician can look for organisms that would affect the immune system. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities in this field are growing faster than average and prospects are expected to be good for several years.