A medical technologist career involves using highly complex medical equipment to run sophisticated tests in laboratories. There are various kinds of tests run in these labs, such as chemical, microscopic, bacteriological, and hematological. The tests are performed on bodily fluids and other specimens, which can include saliva, urine, blood, and stool samples. In addition to running the actual tests, which are used for diagnosing conditions ranging from HIV/AIDS to cancer, medical technologists must also verify the accuracy of the test results. They’re often called upon by physicians and other medical specialists for their input on which tests should be run. The demand for these medical jobs is growing fast.
The work is extremely detail oriented and requires a high level of native intelligence, as well as specialized education in order to qualify for the position. There are two classifications of the people working in a medical technologist career: – those with higher levels of education are known as clinical laboratory scientists, while those medical technologists with lower levels of educational attainment are classified as medical laboratory technicians. It’s imperative to keep these distinctions in mind when considering a medical technologist career; there is much confusion between the two terms, as there is considerable overlap between both tiers. Clinical laboratory scientists (CLSs) and medical laboratory technicians (MLTs) often perform the same tasks, but the CLS designation carries more authority and commands higher salaries than the MLT label. In addition, the CLS may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as immunology, genetics, microbiology, hematology, biochemistry, bacteriology, etc.
In order to qualify for a medical technologist career, a person must earn a specialized college degree. To become a clinical laboratory scientist, one must earn a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or clinical laboratory science. Generally such a degree will involve three years of classroom instruction and a fourth year of working an unpaid internship in a medical laboratory. A third option to qualify as a CLS is to earn a bachelor’s degree in one of the life sciences, and then take an accredited program focusing strictly on medical technology. To qualify for the MLT designation, an associate’s degree in medical technology is required. This will cover much of the same course material as the bachelor’s degree, but won’t include many of the non-medical courses required for a bachelor’s degree. After graduating, the prospective medical technologist must also pass a rigorous certification test. For a CLS career, the appropriate test is the Medical Technologist (MT) exam. The Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) exam is given for those aspiring to become MLTs.
Salaries for both classifications are excellent, but, as stated earlier, they are much higher for a person with a CLS title than the MLT title, because of the higher level of education involved, and the fact that so many CLSs choose to specialize. As of this writing, most CLSs earn between $45,000 and $65,000 a year, with quite a few earning significantly more than that. The bulk of MLTs earn between $30,000 and $45,000 a year, and many earn more than that. Of course, MLTs can always enhance their earning potential by going back to school and getting the higher degree, and many employers are happy to pay for the cost of tuition for those with the drive and ambition to do so. For both classifications, job prospects for the next several years are projected to hold steady. A medical technologist career is both prestigious and rewarding, and should be an excellent career choice for a long time to come.