What Is a Med Tech?

Medical technicians, also referred to as med techs, perform a number of important laboratory tasks in a variety of medical settings. Read below for more details regarding the basic duties of a medical technician. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

A Career as a Medical Technician

The term med tech can be used for a number of occupations, such as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), but generally refers to medical laboratory technicians. Under the supervision of a medical technologist or physician, med techs may be responsible for performing many laboratory tests. A med tech's work mostly occurs in a laboratory regardless of where he or she is employed.

Basic Duties

Med techs prepare blood, urine and tissue samples for analysis using special laboratory equipment. They may also use a variety of chemicals and other agents to help find bacteria and other microorganisms. The role a med tech plays may be helpful in a number of ways, including determining a patient's response to medical treatment by testing blood levels, as well as matching blood types when a transfusion is necessary. Many med techs are also trained in phlebotomy, which involves the collection and proper storage of blood. In addition, med techs may need to enter results into a patient's records.

Work Environment and Education

Med techs work in laboratories under the supervision of medical technologists. A medical technologist receives more extensive training than a med tech and plays an important part in guiding a med tech's work. Med techs may work for hospitals, clinical facilities, private medical practices or pharmaceutical companies. Most med techs have completed a certificate or associate's degree program from an accredited community college or vocational school, and receive the remainder of their med tech training on-the-job. Med tech professionals may choose laboratory work that is general in nature, or they may choose to specialize in a particular area. Some of the areas in which med techs may specialize include:

  • Cytotechnology
  • Virology
  • Hematology
  • Microbiology

Med techs who wish to advance to a medical technologist position will need to complete additional school, as most medical technologists have a bachelor's degree. Students interested in pursuing a med tech career should focus on chemistry, biology and mathematics.

Certification and Licenses

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some states may require med techs to be licensed. Requirements vary by state and might include certification. Some employers may require applicants to be certified as well. Certifications are available generally, or in a specialty. Although certification may not be required to be employed, people who are certified will have an easier time finding employment.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS reports that job positions for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians will increase by 22% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the national average for all positions. Opportunities for medical and clinical laboratory technicians, in particular, are expected to increase by 30% in this time period. This is due to a rise in using laboratory procedures to diagnose illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. In addition, as more people gain access to health insurance, the demand for health services will increase.

As of May 2013, the BLS reports that the median annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was $37,970. Most technicians are employed in hospitals or diagnostic labs.

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