Opportunities in the Lab
Medical laboratory professionals support and perform the medical tests that help diagnose, treat and prevent disease. While medical laboratory professionals don't hold high-profile positions in most healthcare facilities, the field is expected to grow at a healthy rate in the coming years.
"Even though many people don't see us on the front lines, medical laboratory professionals are there providing the information and data that physicians and nurse practitioners use to help the patient," says Joan Polancic, director of education for the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.
Medical laboratory professions consistently rank high in surveys of desirable careers. Medical laboratory technologists ranked 23rd, and medical technicians 36th, out of the 250 jobs profiled in the Jobs Rated Almanac. Jobs were ranked based on salary, stress levels, work environment, outlook, security and physical demands.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for laboratory technologists and technicians are expected to total 150,000 through 2014. Polancic says great opportunities are available for those interested in working in the medical laboratory sciences.
Here are some medical laboratory careers to consider:
- Medical Technologist (MT)
MTs operate sophisticated equipment to perform a variety of lab tests on patient specimens. The tests range from simple blood tests to those designed to detect diseases such as AIDS and diabetes. Doctors use the test results to make medical decisions.
- Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT)
MLTs work under a medical technologist's supervision. They perform general tests in the laboratory as they examine specimens for the presence of disease.
- Histotechnician (HT)
HTs work closely with pathologists to detect cancer, sometimes while a patient is in surgery. They prepare thin sections of body tissue for further examination by a pathologist.
- Cytotechnologist (CT)
CTs examine human cells under microscopes, looking for signs of disease. When they find abnormal cells, CTs work with pathologists to diagnose the problem.
- Phlebotomy Technician (PBT)
Laboratories depend on phlebotomy technicians, or phlebotomists, to draw quality blood samples for examination. PBTs work directly with patients.
Several medical laboratory professional organizations offer educational and networking opportunities for medical laboratory professionals:
- American Association of Blood Banks
- American Association for Clinical Chemistry
- American Medical Technologists
- American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
- American Society for Clinical Pathology
- American Society of Cytopathology
- American Society for Microbiology
- Association of Public Health Laboratories
- Clinical Laboratory Management Association
- College of American Pathologists
- National Society for Histotechnology