Generally, Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLTs) work under the supervision of a physician, Medical Laboratory Technologist, or laboratory manager conducting tests on tissue, blood or body fluid samples to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Roughly half of all MLTs work in acute care hospitals. Many are employed in free-standing diagnostic labs and physician offices. MLTs can also be found in medical research and public health facilities and pharmaceutical labs. Their duties include setting up and sanitizing labs, preparing specimens, matching blood compatibility for transfusion, isolating and identifying pathogens and analyzing tissue and fluid samples, all with the aid of sophisticated equipment including microscopes, cell counters and automated analyzers. The accurate recording of data is a critical element of their performance. As their career progresses, MLTs might specialize in areas such as microbiology, hematology, blood banking, immunology or molecular diagnostics to name a few. MLTs in hospital settings are scheduled on all three shifts.
Some states and many employers require MLTs to be licensed. They can become licensed by attending an accredited Associate’s Degree program of at least 60 semester hours and then sitting for an exam offered by the Board of Certification of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. MLTs can further their careers through a host of specialty certifications. After completing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Medical Technology, they can sit for the Medical Lab Scientist/Technologist exam.
MLTs must be competent in math and science, capable in the use of technology and detail oriented. They work closely with needles and precise equipment so manual dexterity is an important trait as is physical stamina.
Medical Lab Technicians are scientists and clinical detectives. They take great satisfaction in solving a mystery through disciplined, precise testing. While all health care professionals must demonstrate interpersonal skills, MLTs do not have much patient contact, so their focus is on the science. They take pride in the knowledge they accumulate over time in the fast-expanding medical field. MLT is ranked No. 80 among 100 Best Jobs by US News and World Report.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates MLT jobs will grow by nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2022, more than three times the national average.