A person working in a clinical laboratory technician career does much of the “hands-on” work involved in medical careers. A clinical laboratory technician (CLT) functions much like a detective on a police force; they do much of the investigation that can solve a medical problem or confirm a suspected illness, but the public never sees them. Just as the public image of the police force is the officer on the street (even though detectives do much of the actual work of solving crimes), CLTs are rarely seen by the public but do much of the critical work that doctors rely on to serve their patients. A clinical laboratory technician career isn’t glamorous, but it’s certainly fulfilling in other ways, and our health-care system couldn’t function without these dedicated professionals in the field.
CLTs work as laboratory technologists in examining bodily fluids, cells, and tissue samples toward a wide variety of ends. They may search for abnormalities that can lead to a diagnosis. For patients on strong drugs, it’s necessary to monitor their blood levels constantly, and this falls to the CLT. Using cell counters, microscopes, and other high-tech equipment, CLTs examine fluids, cells, and tissues for abnormalities, fungi, parasites, bacteria, and other problems. They also prepare them for testing, and they often will perform the actual tests or hand their work off to the laboratory technologist to complete the more complex functions.
In fact, a clinical laboratory technician career is a great first step toward becoming a full-fledged laboratory technologist. Lab technicians are the foot soldiers of the medical lab, but with motivation and education they can move up the ladder to become lab technologists themselves. This would require a bachelor’s degree in medical technology, whereas a clinical laboratory technician career only requires a certificate or associate’s degree, depending on the standards of the particular hospital or clinic employing the CLT. On top of the certificate or associate’s degree, it will also be necessary to pass the Clinical Laboratory Technician Exam (CLT Test) in order to qualify to work in the field.
CLTs do a lot of work with potentially hazardous cells, tissues, and body fluids, so safety precautions play an important role in the job. Using proper protective gear will be necessary at all times to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases, viruses, etc. When proper safety precautions are followed meticulously at all times, there is very little risk of the CLT being infected or otherwise affected by any hazardous specimens.
Most people working in a clinical laboratory technician career work in hospitals, although an increasing number work in clinics that aren’t attached to hospitals, and this segment of the career is expected to grow. Much of the work will involve using extremely sophisticated medical laboratory equipment, such as cell counters, high-powered microscopes, and automated analyzers. Some positions will require a person to be standing most of the time, while some will allow CLTs to spend most of their time sitting at a desk. CLTs aren’t just found on the 9-5 shift either; at most hospitals, there are CLTs working first, second, and third shifts. Many hospitals have rotating shift schedules, so as not to burden one group of CLTs with having to constantly work odd hours. At some clinics and hospitals, CLTs are expected to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case of emergencies.
Salaries in a clinical laboratory technician career are above average. Most of them currently earn between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, with the top of the range being between $50,000 and $60,000. As might be expected due to the nature of the work, there are usually an abundance of opportunities to supplement one’s income by working overtime. Job prospects for the future appear quite promising, as America’s elderly population soars in the coming years. The middle-aged and elderly are the biggest users of medical care, and this surge in their numbers will mean an increasing need for qualified workers seeking a clinical laboratory technician career. It’s an excellent choice for those who want to put their natural inquisitiveness to work in the health-care field.