Medical Laboratory Technicians, also commonly referred to as medical laboratory technologists or medical laboratory scientists, collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue and other substances. 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.
Medical laboratory technicians typically need an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate from a medical laboratory technician school. 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 of medical laboratory technician education 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 medical laboratory technician jobs will grow by nearly 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, much higher than the national average for all occupations. A total of 52,100 new jobs in the field is expected to occur during that timeframe. An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures.