A clinical laboratory technologist career is an increasingly popular choice for many people possessed of above-average intelligence and a deeply inquiring mind who want a health care career but don’t particularly want to be a doctor or nurse. In many ways, clinical laboratory technologists are at the very heart of much of today’s medicine. Functioning rather like a Sherlock Holmes, it’s their task to run tests, examine tissue and other samples, analyze them, and then report their findings to the attending physician. Whenever patients can’t be diagnosed by a doctor in the office simply by talking to and examining them, and further tests have to be run, the responsibility then moves to the clinical laboratory technologist. It’s a very demanding job, but quite fulfilling. Few other people are as important to people’s health as those who choose to embark on a clinical laboratory technologist career.
The vast majority of technologists work in hospitals, and their work goes on around the clock. Shift work is a common feature of lab technologist jobs, especially for the techs with the lowest seniority. Because of the nature of medical care and hospitals, it’s always necessary to have laboratory technologists on the premises, so some jobs will require working a second or third shift. In many hospitals, management chooses to use a rotating shift schedule, which can definitely take some getting used to. Another common requirement is that lab techs, even when they’re off the job, must be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case of emergencies.
Lab technologists work with extremely sophisticated electronic equipment, such as high-powered microscopes, cell counters, and automated analyzers. They work with specimens of bodily fluids, cell material, and tissue samples in order to analyze them for clues to the patient’s condition. In searching for bacteria, viruses, antibodies, fungi, or other abnormalities, it’s their responsibility to use their expertise with high-tech equipment to give the doctor a definitive diagnosis or to monitor changes in a person undergoing treatment, such as the level of prescription drugs in a person’s blood. Another important aspect of the job, in most cases, will be supervising laboratory technicians, who work side by side but under the authority of lab technologists.
In today’s world of Ebola and flesh-eating viruses, along with “superbugs” such as MRSA, staying safe and uninfected is a top priority for anyone working in a clinical laboratory technologist career. Every lab technologist workplace should be treated as potentially quite dangerous. By taking the proper precautions and utilizing all the required safety gear, a person should be well protected. Thankfully, due to strict regulations about handling samples and specimens, and rigidly enforced safety procedures, infections are rare. Nevertheless, this is a job hazard of which everyone thinking of a clinical laboratory technologist career should be aware.
To become a clinical laboratory technologist, a person will generally need to earn a bachelor’s degree in medical technology. A degree is not the endpoint of the educational process, however, as continuing education is a necessary aspect of the job, due to constantly improving technology and ever-changing medical protocols. In addition to earning a degree, prospective lab technologists must also pass the demanding Medical Technologist Exam given by either American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
Job prospects for those seeking a clinical laboratory technologist career have never been better, and the same is true of salaries. Health care is the one of the areas of the economy predicted to have huge growth in the coming years, and because so much of medicine is becoming dependent on technology, lab technologists will be in high demand. According to official projections by the federal government, growth in employment in this career is expected to far outpace growth in most others. Salaries are already far higher than average in the U.S., and as the demand for lab techs increases, so should salaries. At last report, most lab technologists make between $40,000 and $60,000 a year, while some make $80,000 and above. Clinical laboratory technologist is a rewarding and important career with a bright future.