Cytology Degree Program and Certification Facts

Cytology is a field that focuses on the study of biological cells, often for medical purposes. Learn about the field, available degree programs, certification and potential careers. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is Cytology?

Cytology, simply put, is the scientific study of biological cells. Academic study of cytology refers to studying cells for the identification of diseases and other abnormalities, within a biomedical context. Cytotechnology is the allied health field in which professionals work in labs, using the science of cytology, to detect the presence of diseases in a tissue sample collected by a doctor, nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

What Kind of Degrees Can I Earn?

Many schools offer a Bachelor of Science in Cytotechnology. Bachelor of Science programs will teach you about human physiology, genetics, cellular biology and molecular biology. You can also expect to complete coursework that addresses biochemistry, biostatistics and cancer development.

Programs that award a certificate in cytotechnology are also available, if you've completed a bachelor's degree program. These graduate-level certificate programs are designed specifically to ensure that you meet curricular requirements for ASCP certification and testing eligibility.

Graduate programs award Master of Science degrees in such areas as cytotechnology, molecular cytology and biosciences. If you enroll in a master's degree program, you can expect to take coursework that explores professional practice in terms of cancer research, hospital laboratory operation and management. Other topics of study cover lab diagnostics, clinical trials, research methods, abnormal and genetic cytology, health statistics and clinical applications.

What Certifications Are Available?

If you're looking for certification in cytotechnology, you'll have to meet standards set by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). To do this, you'd first need to complete a bachelor's degree program as well as completing a 1-year cytotechnology program recognized by the ASCP and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

After you've completed three years of laboratory experience with a licensed doctor who holds anatomic pathology certification from the American Board of Pathology (or similar credentials), you could then test for cytotechnology specialist certification administered by the ASCP.

Why Should I Enroll in a Program and Earn Certification?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree and meet ASCP certification standards for most jobs. If you decide to complete a master's degree program, you may be able to receive additional ASCP certification in an area closely related to cytology. You can also apply your master's degree in an administrative or supervisory role. Otherwise, baccalaureate training and board certification in cytotechnology can qualify you to work as a:

  • Lab technician
  • Cytologist
  • Pathology assistant
  • Science teacher (with teacher certification)

What Do I Need to Enroll in a Program?

You'll only need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in a bachelor's degree program. If you're still in high school, you can take science and math courses to prepare for your college education. Graduate certificate programs require you to hold a bachelor's degree. Master's degree programs look for the same course prerequisites along with a degree in cytotechnology or a related field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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