Skip to main content

Career Tips & Advice

What Do Medical Laboratory Technicians Do?

Concorde Staff
Concorde Staff
Updated June 29, 2016. The information contained in this blog is current and accurate as of this date.
Learn what medical lab technician or medical laboratory technicians do and how to beocme a medical laboratory technician.

Medical Laboratory Technician. The job title itself can have broad connotations and, in fact, the duties of a Medical Lab Technician, or MLT, are quite expansive and varied.

"Medical Lab Techs are clinical detectives who investigate the physiological anomalies associated with pathological abnormalities", said Kevin McHugh, MS, AMI(AMT), CLS(NCA), MLS(ASCP), MLT program director at Concorde's Memphis, Tenn. campus. "Medical Laboratory Science is a field that requires optimum accuracy and precision. In fact, more than 80 percent of all medical differential diagnoses are reached based off of the laboratory data."

Generally, MLTs work under the supervision of a physician, Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) and laboratory manager and director conducting tests on tissue, blood or body fluid samples to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

MLTs also work in a wide variety of professional settings. Roughly half of all MLTs work in acute care hospitals. Many are employed in free-standing diagnostic labs and physicians' offices. They also are found in medical research and public health facilities and pharmaceutical labs as well as in academia, forensic medicine, veterinary medicine, laboratory bioinformatics and bioengineering.

Medical lab technician has a wide range of duties

The duties of an MLT range from setting up and sanitizing labs, preparing specimens, matching blood compatibility for transfusion, isolating and identifying pathogens and analyzing tissue and fluid samples. This is made possible with the aid of sophisticated equipment including microscopes, cell counters and automated analyzers. Accurate recording of data is one of the most important daily tasks of an MLT. As their career progresses, MLTs might specialize in areas such as microbiology, hematology, chemistry, blood banking, immunology or molecular diagnostics, to name a few.

MLTs in hospital settings are scheduled on all three shifts.

As previously mentioned, MLTs are both scientist and clinical detective. They take great pride in solving a mystery through disciplined, precise testing. Unlike many health care professionals, they don't concern themselves much with interpersonal skills, because they have very limited contact with patients. Their focus is on science and must also be highly competent in math and the use of technology. Since they work closely with needles, MLTs must have good manual dexterity.

"The ideal candidate for an MLT is an analytical perfectionist and intellectual achiever who takes great pride in the validity of the laboratory data they are providing to the physician," McHugh said.

Training MLTs for success

Concorde's Medical Lab Technician program, which is offered at our Memphis, Tenn. campus, is designed to fully prepare students in all these varieties of duties and in all the various settings in which one might find themselves through a comprehensive foundation of hands-on, real-world education and skills training.

You'll be fully ready for Day 1 on the job.

"The Concorde MLT program consists of 20 months of intense pedagogical instruction, including didactic courses, laboratory courses and clinical practicums," McHugh said. "Each didactic course has a corresponding laboratory for hands-on experience and a corresponding clinical rotation for real-world application.

"Upon completion of clinical rotations, the students are prepared for their certification board examinations required for state licensure."

Licensure might be required

Some states and many employers require MLTs to be licensed. Concorde's Associate's Degree MLT program prepares students to sit for any licensing exam offered by the Board of Certification of the American Society of Clinical Pathology.

MLTs also further their careers through a host of specialty certifications. After completing a bachelor of science degree in laboratory science, they sit for the medical lab scientist/clinical laboratory scientist exam.

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 for all occupations.