What Is a Typical Medical Lab Technician Salary? And 5 Other Questions About This Career
By Ashley Brooks on 11/12/2018
You’re fascinated by the world of healthcare, but you’re less enamored with the amount of time and money it takes to become a physician. Doctors may take up most of the spotlight, but there are plenty of other important healthcare professionals getting things done off center stage. A medical lab technician is just one of the roles you may be considering for your big break into healthcare.
This healthcare job title sounds appealing, but you have a list of questions you need answered before jumping into a new career. At the top of that list is, “What is a medical lab technician salary?” Money isn’t everything, but you can’t consider a career that doesn’t allow you to support yourself.
We’re answering this and five other burning questions about a career as a medical lab technician. Keep reading to find all the answers you’re looking for as you determine if this career could be a fit for you.
What is the average medical lab technician salary?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the healthcare industry is projected to add more jobs than any other occupation group through 2026, totaling 2.4 million jobs and 18 percent job growth.1
The healthcare industry is on the rise. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects there to be more healthcare jobs added than any other occupation group through 2026.1 Generally speaking, this is often associated with encouraging salaries and stable job outlooks, and medical lab technicians are no exception.
The BLS reports the median average salary for medical lab techs was $51,770 in 2017.1 This is higher than the national average for all occupations, which was $37,690. Seeing a salary like that might make you wonder how many medical lab tech jobs are really out there. Won’t those positions be competitive? No need to worry.
This healthcare career is enjoying plenty of job growth. Medical lab tech positions are expected to increase by 12 percent from 2016 to 2026.1 This is much faster than the national average and will potentially result in more than 42,000 additional medical lab tech jobs nationwide.
What does a medical lab technician do?
A medical lab technician may be a job title you’re just learning about, but they’ve probably played a part in your care at your own doctor’s office. Medical lab techs perform tests, such as blood or urine analysis, that are ordered by physicians. Then they use specialized equipment to analyze the results and log their findings in patients’ charts. Medical lab technicians are also responsible for performing basic maintenance on important—and expensive—lab equipment.
Though much of their time is spent behind a microscope, these healthcare professionals aren’t always in the lab. They’ll often be called upon to discuss test results with a physician or to collect blood or tissue samples from patients. You could say that medical lab techs get to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to balancing behind-the-scenes work with direct patient care.
Where does a medical lab technician work?
You might have guessed that medical lab techs need a laboratory to do their job, but their work environments can vary quite a bit beyond that. Nearly half of all lab techs work in hospitals while the rest are divided between dedicated medical laboratories, doctors’ offices, colleges and outpatient care centers.
A lab tech’s work location can greatly affect their schedule. Medical lab techs in a hospital may be required to work overnights, weekends or holidays to assist with the ‘round-the-clock demand for medical tests. They may also have the opportunity to run more specialized tests. Lab techs working in a clinic will have more regular work hours and routine tests, while those in a dedicated lab probably won’t interact with patients.
Who does a medical lab technician work with?
It takes a team of skilled individuals to provide high-quality patient care. Medical lab technicians are a vital part of that team. They’ll often collaborate with physicians and nurses to talk about a test result and determine the best care options for a patient.
Lab techs also work together with others in the lab, such as a lab manager or medical technologist, who typically supervise medical lab technicians. By working as a team, everyone in the lab can ensure that best practices and regulations are adhered to.
What skills/qualities does a medical lab technician need?
Medical lab technicians require a set of specialized technical skills to do their job. This includes things like phlebotomy (drawing blood), chemistry and understanding how to properly use the testing equipment in a lab. These skills may sound intimidating, but they are taught to aspiring medical lab techs during their schooling.
Technical skills aren’t everything, even in a lab. Medical lab techs also need certain soft skills and qualities to succeed at their career. These are some of the top soft skills for medical lab technicians, as identified by the Department of Labor:
- Active listening
- Reading comprehension
- Critical thinking
- Complex problem solving
- Quality control analysis
How do you become a medical lab technician?
It might sound daunting to gain the skills and education you need to work in a lab all day, but becoming a medical lab technician might not be as difficult as you think! Most medical lab tech positions require an Associate’s degree from an accredited college, which can be accomplished in a few as 21 months.2
Then you’ll be qualified to take the certification exam through the American Society of Clinical Pathology. Though this step isn’t required, many employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified. Additionally, some states will also require their lab workers to be licensed, so you’ll want to check with the licensing organization in your state
Do you have a future as a medical lab technician?
Now you have answers to all your big questions about this healthcare career, including, “What is a medical lab technician salary?” If this overview of what it’s like working in a clinical lab sounded appealing, you might be looking for more information on your next steps to becoming a medical lab tech. Look no further! Our article, “How to Become a Medical Lab Technician in 4 Important Steps,” will help you get started.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed October 9, 2018]. www.bls.gov/ooh/. Salary information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Completion time is dependent on transfer credits accepted and courses completed each term.