How to Become a Certified Medical Tech in 5 Steps
Learn about the steps you can take to become a medical technician and gain certification. Explore the educational requirements, job outlook and certification process. Read about advanced education options for career enhancement. Schools offering Clinical Laboratory Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Certified Medical Tech?
Certified medical technicians process specimens and perform laboratory tests ordered by physicians and medical technologists. Many specialized in cytotechnology, hematology or microbiology. Their work is essential in the diagnosis of medical conditions, the prevention of diseases and the treatment of patients.
Your primary duties as a certified medical tech would include examining samples of bodily fluids, cells and tissue. Supporting duties include maintaining cell counters, microscopes and other lab equipment. Some certified medical technicians, such as phlebotomists, also collect specimens from patients. To become a certified medical technician, you must earn an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science degree in medical laboratory technology and become certified through a professional organization.
Step 1: Earn Your High School Diploma
For starters, you'll need a high school diploma to enroll in an associate's degree program. Classes in English, biology, chemistry and mathematics are considered best for preparation for further studies in medical laboratory technology. Some schools may require such courses among the prerequisites.
Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree
Associate's degree programs in medical laboratory technology develop the skills you'll need to perform competently in a medical lab. Programs accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (www.naacls.org) ensure that you receive the right mix of academic and lab training. Academic courses cover such topics as clinical chemistry, bacteriology, hematology and microbiology. Lab courses show you how to collect specimen samples, perform tests on cells, blood and other bodily fluids, analyze the results and maintain lab equipment. Some programs have internship or practicum courses that provide real-world work experience.
Step 3: Find a Medical Tech Job
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a majority of medical lab techs worked in hospitals, with the remainder spread among physicians' offices, medical and diagnostic labs, educational institutions and ambulatory healthcare services (www.bls.gov). Approximately 152,420 people were employed as clinical and medical lab techs as of May 2009 - down from 155,600 in 2008. Despite the decline, you can expected favorable employment prospects due to anticipated retirements, job turnover and increased demand for medical tests.
Step 4: Obtain Certification
Medical technicians who've earned certification through a professional organization, such as the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (www.ascp.org), may find more and better job opportunities. Certification also is available in some specialty areas. For example, the American Board of Internal Medicine (www.abim.org) offers certification in hematology.
Step 5: Continue Your Education
Pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology or clinical laboratory science from a 4-year institution can increase your earning potential and career options. This or a comparable bachelor's degree can also qualify you to work as clinical laboratory scientist or medical laboratory technologist. Many accept transfer credits from associate's degree programs in medical lab technology. Lab management, molecular diagnostics and advanced microbiology are among topics covered in medical technology courses.
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