How to Become a Medical Technologist:
The Definitive Guide


Have you ever thought about what it would be like to analyze and test blood, bodily fluids, and tissue samples?

Love the idea of working in the medical field but don’t have any desire to work day to day with patience?

If this sounds like something that you would really look forward to doing every day, then a career as a medical technologist might be perfect for you.

Medical technologists work in many different areas, such as immunology, microbiology, genetics, chemistry, toxicology, the list goes on.

You’ll be doing things that help to diagnose, treat, and care for patients behind the scenes.

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What is a Medical Technologist?

A medical technologist is a person who collects samples of blood, bodily fluids, and tissue that are used for medical purposes.

When a doctor or other medical professional orders a test, for example, a blood test, a medical technologist is the person who takes that blood sample and analyzes it in order to find out what is wrong with the patient.

There are medical technologists that work in small laboratories, who may do a wide array of different things, but there are also medical technologists that work in larger labs, who have a smaller niche.

Some examples of specific types of medical technologists include:

Blood bank technologists who collect blood, classify it by type, and also prepare the blood and components to be used for transfusions.

Clinical chemical technologists, these are medical technologists that analyze the hormonal and chemical components of bodily fluids.

Cytotechnologists prepare slides of blood cells and examine them for abnormalities.

Immunology technologists examine the human immune system for issues and to see how it responds to foreign bodies.

Duties

The duties of a medical technologist can range daily, but the most common duties include:

  • Analyzing bodily fluids, blood, urine, and tissues samples.
  • Studying blood samples to determine the type.
  • Operating laboratory equipment.
  • Using computers.
  • Logging data and medical tests, providing results for doctors.
  • Discussing the results and findings of tests with other medical staff.

How Much Does a Medical Technologist Make?

In 2019, the average salary for a medical technologist was $69,000.

The salary can be as low as $63,000 and as high as $77,000.

It is important to remember that there are differences in salary due to education, certifications and even where you are employed.

Those that work for the government tend to make more money, while medical technologists that work for private physician’s offices tend to make the least amount of money annually.

As a medical technologist, you will likely work a full-time job with regular hours, but those that work in around the clock facilities, like hospitals or private labs, often work weekends, and overnights as well.

Average National Salary: $69,000

$63K
$68K
$69K
$74K
$77K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%
*Salary information last updated 2019

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$65,019
Alaska$78,276
Arizona$69,006
Arkansas$64,126
California$77,858
Colorado$69,493
Connecticut$75,767
Delaware$73,188
Florida$66,914
Georgia$67,263
Hawaii$73,396
Idaho$65,787
Illinois$71,815
Indiana$68,099
Iowa$66,566
Kansas$65,263
Kentucky$64,893
Louisiana$66,190
Maine$67,193
Maryland$72,421
Massachusetts$75,836
Michigan$70,400
Minnesota$71,097
Mississippi$60,459
Missouri$66,217
Montana$63,185
Nebraska$63,917
Nevada$71,794
New Hampshire$70,748
New Jersey$77,370
New Mexico$63,395
New York$74,791
North Carolina$66,496
North Dakota$64,823
Ohio$67,960
Oklahoma$65,520
Oregon$69,424
Pennsylvania$69,563
Rhode Island$73,467
South Carolina$64,681
South Dakota$59,456
Tennessee$63,325
Texas$68,309
Utah$66,038
Vermont$67,124
Virginia$68,608
Washington$74,442
West Virginia$61,408
Wisconsin$68,657
Wyoming$61,883

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $78,276

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $78,276
California - $77,858
New Jersey - $77,370
Massachusetts - $75,836
Connecticut - $75,767

How to Become a Medical Technologist

Step 1Obtain a Bachelors Degree

The first thing that you are going to want to do when you decide to become a medical technologist is to enroll in a Bachelor program.

This is the minimum requirement to become a medical technologist and will take you around four years to finish.

Before you start your education, you will want to make sure that the school you plan to go to is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Services.

You’ll want to also make sure that you take classes based in the sciences, these classes can include biology, chemistry, and of course math.

Another important aspect to think about when gaining your Bachelor’s degree is what specialty you may want to go into.

Some of these specialties include:

  • Phlebotomy
  • Cytotechnology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular biology

Depending on what you want to do as a medical technician when you graduate, the variety of specialties can lead you down the right path.

Some courses that you will likely take on this career path include:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

You’ll also be doing a lot of lab work in class, which can lead to experience dealing with lab equipment.

Step 2Complete an Internship

Now that you’ve graduated from college, you need some hands-on experience in the lab.

Some internships are possible during the final year of your degree, which can help you to gain employment after you graduate.

Ask the counselor at your school if this is possible for you.

By working in an internship, you can learn quite a lot of on the job education that you can’t get from books or lectures in class.

It is likely that you will work as an assistant to a medical technologist where you will work side by side in a laboratory setting.

Along with the experience during the internship, you can expect to gain contacts to help with future employment.

Another way to gain some experience is to finish a senior-year-program at a hospital.

Step 3Obtain Licensure

Some states require you to get a license in order to practice.

Each state has its own requirements, so you will want to contact your local state licensure agency in order to find out what the requirements are for you.

Some states require only a Bachelors degree and passing an examination.

Either way, this is an important step to ensure that you are working legally and correctly.

Step 4Become Certified

Now that you know if you need a license in your state, it’s time to get certified.

Certifications are available from many different organizations, but one popular choice is the Board of Certification of the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Even though it is not required in all states, it’s still important to think about become certified.

Many employers won’t even think about hiring someone who isn’t certified, because then they know that the medical technologist that they are hiring is aware of all aspects of the career.

While you want to obtain your certification, you’ll also want to keep up with education.

Each year, you will want to maintain your certification, licensure and any new education out there.


Education

In order to become a medical technologist, you are going to have to obtain a Bachelors degree.

You will want to either major in medical technology, or another life science.

That choice is up to you, but make sure that you take the required classes.

It is also important that the education program is accredited with the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

Common courses that you may have to take include:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Organic chemistry
  • Immunology
  • Cell biology

These aren’t all of the classes that you will take over the course of the four years, just some required ones, a full list of classes can be obtained from a counselor or advisor.

Some skills that you will likely obtain while gaining your Bachelor’s degree will include:

  • The examination of cells and bodily fluids in a lab setting.
  • How to perform and analyze a variety of tests.
  • How to operate lab equipment.

Though having a Bachelor’s degree is the foundation for your education, it is important that you strive for more with a certification in medical technology.

More and more employers are looking for people who are certified in the area, and not just the degree, to employ in their labs.

There are many schools on campus and online that support this degree, but it is important that you get lab time in as well.

You will need to have hands-on education in order to obtain a career as a medical technologist.

That is why it is important to think about doing an internship while in your senior year of school, or right after you graduate.

This can give you much-needed experience, and help to foster a career either in the company that you are interning for or elsewhere through contacts.

The completion of this program can take from four years and up, depending on if you are going to school full time, or if you plan to do it part-time while working, etc.

Most state colleges offer the medical technology major and will guide you through which classes you need to take in order to obtain your degree.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

Even though in many states certification is not required to work, employers will likely hire people who have certifications over those that don’t.

A certification shows that you have the ability and desire to work as a medical technologist.

It doesn’t take long to get a certification, so this piece of the education puzzle is very desirable in the eyes of employers.

It’s also likely that you will have higher wages and promotional opportunities with certifications.

Now, let’s talk about how to achieve that certification.

In order to become certified as a medical technologist, you must first obtain a Bachelor’s degree.

You’ll want to gain a degree in either medical technology or one of the life sciences.

As long as you have all the prerequisites, it doesn’t matter which life science.

Got your degree? Great, now you must have graduated within the last five years.

Those that have graduated more than five years ago must take extra steps to ensure certification is possible.

You’ll need to brush up on your skills and make sure you are up to date with the knowledge in the medical field.

Did you graduate less than five years ago?

Awesome!

Then you need to know that you must have some laboratory experience in order to take your certification exam.

The experience should include chemical, physical or biological examinations.

If you have done all of the above, then it’s time to find your exam center.

This can be done online, through many websites like americanmedtech.org, or through your ascp.org.

If you don’t want to take the test online, contact the American Medical Technologists association to find a testing place near you.

Keep in mind you need to make sure that the place you are going for testing is an accredited place so that your certification is legal.

Certification Example:

medical technology certification

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

There is no technical training program, the training is done through an internship during your senior year of school.

You can also do your internship when you graduate, but why waste an entire school year?

It’s important to keep up with new and improved findings in the medical field.

Training for different tests and laboratory procedures should be kept up to date until you retire.

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Job Outlook

The job outlook for medical technologists looks very promising in the next ten years.

The career will likely grow around 13 percent by 2026, which is faster than most occupations.

Everyone one in the baby boomer generation is getting older, which means there is a greater need for testing on things like diabetes, cancers, and other medical conditions.

Prenatal testing for genetic conditions has also become more common, which means these types of jobs will be in high demand in years to come.

Job prospects will be the highest for those people who seek higher education through an accredited program.

Employment Growth Projection: 13%

335,700
2016
378,400
2026

That's a higher than average projected growth of 42,700 jobs.

Medical Technologist: Interest Over Time


Should you become a Medical Technologist?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

The overall satisfaction for a medical technologist is very high.

People who do this job find it rewarding and challenging but in a good way.

After many years in the field, it can become a redundant job, with doing the same tests over and over again, but it is important and those that work as medical technologists have the respect for the job to maintain the work.

The hours are decent, with many people working regular hours.

The ability to make more money or get promoted is promising in this field.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

The average salary for a medical technologist is around $67,000.

This is much more than a lot of careers straight out of college.

Due to the fact that you are working in a medical facility, and dealing with very valuable information, you will make quite a bit of money.

Those that have certifications tend to make more than those people that don’t.

Experience can also get you higher wages.

The facility in which you work can have an effect on how much you make as well.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

It seems that the job growth outlook for a medical technologist is going to be great in the next coming years.

There are many baby boomers who are becoming older, requiring medical intervention for diabetes and cancer.

It’s also become much more acceptable for mothers to get prenatal testing done, which will increase the likely hood that you will have plenty of work to do in the lab.

Smaller labs will have less opportunity for growth, but large labs like in hospitals will provide a great opportunity to gain promotions.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 4+ Years

A Bachelors degree is required in order for a person to become a medical technologist.

These types of degrees typically take around 4 years for full-time students and can be around 5 or 6 for part-time students.

After you graduate, you’ll want to become certified.

Though this isn’t a requirement in all states, employers look for certifications most of the time.

The certification doesn’t take long, because it is an exam, but it is thoroughly at around 100 questions.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Since you will be working with lab equipment and sensitive materials, like blood, bodily fluids and other serious medical objects, you’ll want to make sure that you are aware of the personal skills needed for this job.

The job can be meticulous, so it’s not for everyone.

The personal attributes needed to be a medical technologist include:

  • Independence
  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Time management skills
  • Teamwork skills

That’s just a small list, but you will know if you fall under the category of the perfect person to work as a medical technologist.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a Medical Technologist make?

The average salary for a medical technologist in 2019 is around $67,000.

Those that have more education and certifications will make more, the highest recorded amount made in 2019 is around $77,000 for this occupation.

Those that work in smaller labs or for private physicians will make less than those that work in hospitals or for large laboratories.

Q. What does a medical technologist do?

A medical technologist deals with blood, bodily fluids, and tissue samples.

These items are tested for diseases, genetic issues, and other medical problems for doctors to help diagnose patients.

You’ll also be responsible for organizing data, analyzing data and recording data.

One of the major aspects of this job is conducting experiments and scientific investigations to find out what is going on with patients.

You’ll be in charge of writing reports to take back to doctors for their patients.

It’s also important that you keep up with scientific procedures and technical developments in the industry.

Q. How long does it take to become a medical technologist?

The length of time it takes to become a medical technologist can vary depending on whether you are a full-time student or a part-time student.

Those that are full-time students can likely gain their Bachelor degree in four years.

After that, there are certain states that require specific certifications in order to obtain employment.

This certification requires you to pass an exam and continue education throughout your career.

This can take roughly six months to one year to complete, but the education should be continual throughout your career as a medical technologist.

Q. Is there a demand for Medical Technologists?

There is a high demand for medical technologists.

People are becoming older, which means more tests are being done to look for diabetes, cancer, and other medical issues.

It’s also become common for women to seek prenatal testing for genetic issues or other defects.

Many different types of facilities hire medical technologists.

These include:

  • Environmental agencies
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Universities
  • Water companies
  • Civil service
  • Food and drink companies
  • Specialist Organizations

Q. How much does it cost to become a Medical Technologist?

The cost of a Bachelor degrees varies from university to university, but a rough estimate would assume that at a state college a medical technologist will likely pay $30,000 or more for their education.

That does not include the cost of certification, which can be more than $200.

Continuing education can cost around $200, per course, as well.

It is possible to gain an Associates degree in Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology, which can cost around $18,000.

Though, people who go that route tend to go back to school to obtain their Bachelors, as many employers won’t hire people with an Associates degree only.


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