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Although health care facilities rely on professionals such as physicians and nurses, these aren't the only positions in health care that make a difference. Medical laboratories are utilized in various facilities, including hospitals, doctors offices and clinics. Those that work in the lab play a critical role in health care by helping to detect disease, perform simple blood tests and other tasks that are crucial to the operations of these facilities. As with other fields in health care, job growth for lab workers are expected to be above average. The positions which may be available may also be quite diverse and offer above average pay.
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Medical Laboratory Technologists
The medical laboratory technologist, commonly referred to as a clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) is primarily responsible for the operation of the laboratory and the equipment. Duties may include but are not limited to performing various tests by utilizing the necessary equipment, supervising lab technicians and assistants and working closely with physicians, pathologists and epidemiologists. Medical laboratory careers such as this are very versatile and there are multiple fields or specialties that the technologist will have to choose from. According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), at least a baccalaureate degree is needed for such positions, unless the applicant holds an associate’s degree and has sufficient experience. Upon graduation from an approved program, certification is obtained by sitting for a national exam given by the ASCP. However, other credentialing agencies and licensure from the professional's state of practice or residence is often required. The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that wages for the technologist range from $36,180 to $74,680 as of 2008.
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Medical Laboratory Technicians
Technicians perform a variety of tasks under the supervision of the clinical laboratory scientist. This position may entail collecting or obtaining specimens and performing less complex tests within their scope of practice. This may consist of utilizing automated machinery and performing simple manual test with the guidance of a superior. The medical laboratory technician typically holds an associate degree, but this is not a requirement. Vocational programs and on-the-job training are possible. Although certification is desirable by most employers, it isn’t necessarily a requirement, depending on the regulations imposed in the particular state of practice. Those with sufficient experience may also advance into a technologist position. As with the technologist, the technician may specialize and can work in a variety of settings. This includes hospitals, physicians offices and diagnostic laboratories to name a few options. Median annual wages for the technician range between $28,420 and $53,520.
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Other Medical Laboratory Careers
Positions within the medical laboratory are not limited to technologists and technicians. Laboratory assistants and support personnel play a vital role in the day to day operations of the medical lab. Depending on the medical facility, other terms may be used for such positions. For example, the phlebotomist is considered a technician in some facilities, but referred to as simply an aide or assistant in others. Entry level positions may not necessarily require a degree, rather vocational school or on-the-job training.
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Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians. United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. 29, September 2010. Viewed 15, October 2010. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos096.htm
The Medical Technologist and Medical Laboratory Technician. American Society for Clinical Pathology. Unknown. Viewed 15, October 2010. http://www.ascp.org/pdf/TheMedicalTechnologistandMedicalLaboratoryTechnician.aspx