What does a Medical Laboratory Scientist do?

Median Pay $51,770
Growth Rate 13%
Citation Retrieved from BLS.gov

A medical laboratory scientist performs complex tests and procedures to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances that have been ordered by surgeons, physicians, and other healthcare personnel. They often specialize after gaining experience or have furthered their education or training in this field. Those in this position are also called microbiology technologist, research assistant, medical technologist, and medical lab tech.

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How to Become a Medical Laboratory Scientist

become a medical lab scientist

To become a medical technologist you would earn a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology or medical laboratory science. In this degree program you would take courses in math, microbiology, chemistry, statistics, and biology. Next, you would typically enroll in the clinical portion of the program and gain your hands on experience. Some states require technologists to be licensed, but requirements vary from state to state.

A certification may also be needed in some states, however even if it is not required, most employers favor hiring a certified candidate. You can also advance (or specialize) in this career in areas such as clinical chemistry, immunology, or histotechnology after gaining experience and taking additional training.

Job Description of a Medical Laboratory Scientist

A medical technologist typically collects samples of tissue and body fluids and records normal or abnormal findings. They study blood samples for use in transfusions and discuss or report the results of those tests with physicians. These technologist must also log data from the medical tests into a patient’s medical record. These professionals use advanced laboratory equipment, as well as automated equipment and computerized instruments that can perform multiple tests simultaneously. They are often responsible for the training and supervision of medical laboratory technicians. Other tasks performed by a technologist would be determined by the laboratory size, specialty of the lab, and tests performed there.

Medical Technologist Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Testing procedures are performed on a variety of biological specimens and/or environmental samples using manual or automated techniques, and require a broad exercise of independent judgment and responsibility with minimal technical supervision. The work performed is in a variety of laboratory disciplines, such as bacteriology, chemistry (including endocrinology and toxicology), molecular biology, coagulation, flow cytometry, genetics, hematology, immunology, immunohematology (blood banking), mycology, parasitology, serology, urinalysis, and virology. Such positions include requirements to monitor quality control systems and measures; collaborate in the diagnosis and treatment of patients; and provide education for laboratory and other healthcare professionals, and others in the medical center setting including the public.

Duties include but are not limited to:

  • Evaluates and solves problems related to collection and processing of biological specimens.
  • Maintains and documents the optimal functioning of laboratory equipment.
  • Performs and documents quality control and assurance actives.
  • Answers inquiries regarding test results.
  • Interprets test results and suggests follow-up test selection or procedures.

This position was posted to run 11/05/2018 until 01/31/2019 with a salary range of $57,366 to $91,224 per year on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Medical Laboratory Scientist Career Video Transcript

When a doctor orders a series of tests on a patient, it’s the job of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians to prepare and perform those tests to help detect diseases or abnormalities. These professionals analyze body fluids, tissue, and cells. Using powerful medical equipment, they look for bacteria, parasites, and abnormal cells. They also analyze cholesterol levels, and cross-match blood samples for transfusions, documenting their results in reports or patient medical records. Since they regularly handle samples and medical instruments contaminated by infectious microbes, they wear protective goggles, gloves, and masks to minimize the risk of contagion.

In larger labs and hospitals, technologists and technicians tend to specialize in areas like blood work or microbiology. Most work full-time. In general, technologists supervise the work of technicians. Technicians need an associate’s degree in clinical laboratory science, and technologists need a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or life sciences. Licensure is required in some states, and certification is often preferred by employers. The work can be stressful, especially when they must perform complex tests accurately and in a limited time. However, they gain satisfaction from knowing they’ve provided the vital information doctors need to save lives or cure diseases.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Technologist.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-2011.00. O*NET OnLine. This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. RethinkOldSchool, Inc. has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

The career image was released into the public domain by the National Cancer Institute, an agency part of the National Institutes of Health.