How to Become a Medical Lab Technician in 4 Important Steps
You don’t have to be sewing up sutures or harvesting organs to help save lives. A medical lab technician (MLT) may work behind the scenes, but through their expertise and experience, they play an integral role in helping doctors first identify what needs to be treated.
Working under the supervision of lab technologists, medical lab techs perform tests, analyze body fluids and work with sophisticated laboratory equipment in order to help doctors and surgeons determine the best course of action for their patients.
But how do you become a medical lab technician, exactly? As someone who is passionate about healthcare, you’re itching to enter the field and start earning a paycheck while helping to save lives. You want the simple, straightforward path to get there. Check out these four steps to learn how to become a medical lab technician.
4 Straightforward steps to become a medical lab tech
Instead of scouring the web for bits and pieces of information, we compiled government data and insight from MLT experts to provide you with this thorough guide of how to become a medical lab tech in four steps.
1. Get educated
“You can start with an Associate degree for a medical laboratory technician,” says Rebecca Smith, Program Coordinator for the Rasmussen College Medical Lab Technician program.
Though you may be in a hurry, this is one step you won’t be able to skip. Medical lab techs typically need an Associate’s degree or postsecondary Certificate to land a job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Additionally, when looking for an Associate’s degree program, it’s important to be sure it’s accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).Though a Bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary for finding an entry-level lab technician job, there are options to further your medical lab education.
“You can complete a Bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science,” Smith says. “There is also a Master’s degree in medical laboratory science along with a Doctoral program to obtain your PhD.”
2. Take the ASCP certification exam
Upon completion of an accredited program, you should be eligible to sit for the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) exam to acquire certification. Think of certification as sort of like your driver’s license. It’s the proof that signifies you really do know what you’re doing. This evidence of your competence in the medical lab field just puts you another step closer to landing your first job and earning your very first paycheck.
Again, though you may have heard that not all employers require certification, most typically prefer to hire those who are certified.
3. Look into licensure
The BLS states that some states may require that lab personnel get licensed. To double check local requirements, get in touch with your state’s department of health, board of occupational licensing or visit the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science website to learn more.
You might consider having a brief conversation with your degree-program coordinator or advisor to get the scoop on any additional requirements your state may have.
4. Don’t hesitate
“I wouldn’t wait,” Smith urges. “There is a huge demand for laboratorians in medicine.”
"There is a huge demand for laboratorians in medicine."
Though it may not exactly be a “step,” with optimistic employment opportunities like this, you don’t want to waste any time moving forward. Medical lab technician jobs are projected to increase by 13 percent through 2026, according to the BLS. This is faster than the national average for all occupations, meaning there’s no better time than now to join the profession.
This employment spike has been spurred by the aging Baby Boomer population’s needs, such as using medical procedures to diagnose diabetes, cancer and other medical conditions. Additionally, prenatal testing for various conditions has become more common, and healthcare reform has enabled more and more people to seek out lab tests that were previously unaffordable.
Take the first step
Now that you know how to become a medical lab technician—what are you waiting for?
Get started on those steps today by learning more about how our Medical Lab Technician Program can help equip you with the practical knowledge and hands on training you need to succeed in the field.