How to Become a Medical Lab Technician

HealthcareJanuary 16, 2024

From metabolic panels to thyroid tests and far beyond, early disease diagnosis can result in improved health outcomes by fast tracking the treatment process. These tests are performed by trained medical laboratory technicians who analyze different patient samples using specialized equipment.

Medical lab technicians play a crucial role in healthcare, and the position is in demand as older generations experience an increased need for diagnostic testing. Individuals who want to pursue a career in the medical field with an emphasis on chemistry should learn more about how to become a medical lab technician and how a medical laboratory technician training program can help them achieve their career goals.

What Does a Medical Lab Technician Do? 

Medical laboratory technicians, sometimes referred to as clinical lab technicians, are professionals who help determine patients’ health status and treatment options by conducting tests on tissue, blood, and fluid samples. 

They use routine lab equipment such as microscopes and cell culture plates, alongside specialty technology such as automated analyzers, cell counters, and clinical centrifuges. The objective is to reveal details about samples that can lead to diagnoses. Medical lab techs must adhere to strict procedures regarding safety and protective equipment to limit the chances of sample contamination or exposure to infectious samples.

Medical lab technicians can most typically be found in medical facilities such as hospitals, medical labs, and doctor’s offices. Depending on the size and structure of the workplace, they may work long or extended hours. For example, many hospitals operate their labs 24 hours a day and may require technicians to work nights or weekends.

A role that is similar to clinical laboratory technician is that of a biotechnology lab technician. These professionals help run research tests to aid in the development of biotech products.

Steps to Become a Medical Lab Technician

Learning how to become a medical lab technician requires understanding the specific requirements for the job, such as completing the necessary education, gaining certification, and developing important skills. By following certain steps, potential technicians can better stand out to employers.

1. Complete an Education

Most employers prefer clinical lab technician candidates to have an associate or bachelor’s degree in laboratory science, as these programs provide in-depth courses on subjects such as clinical chemistry and medical lab techniques. These degree programs also provide an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience with the equipment used in clinical lab settings.

2. Develop Key Skills

Medical lab technicians should develop a set of key skills that increase their efficiency and reduce the chance of testing errors. Examples of lab tech skills include the following:

  • Equipment knowledge: Medical lab technicians should have a fundamental understanding of the equipment used in medical labs to ensure smooth operation and to be aware of malfunctions when they occur.
  • Chemistry and biology knowledge: Medical lab techs work with a variety of chemicals and biological samples. They should have a foundational knowledge of biology and chemistry to accurately record results and relay them to other healthcare professionals.
  • Attention to detail: Medical lab techs need to follow specific instructions and meticulously record notes and observations to accurately share results with physicians.
  • Communication: Medical lab techs relay test results to other healthcare professionals, which necessitates verbal and written communication skills that are proven and precise.

3. Gain Licensure and Certification

Earning relevant licensure or certification may be necessary for individuals looking to become medical lab technicians. These requirements typically vary by state and employer, so it’s important to verify which credentials are required. 

An example of a relevant certification is the medical lab technician (MLT) certification offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). This certification helps demonstrate the holder’s aptitude and experience in a lab setting. Another option is the medical lab scientist (MLS) certification, which is also offered by the ASCP. This credential helps showcase that the holder is capable of performing lab work at a higher level of analytical ability.

Job Outlook for Medical Lab Technicians

The employment outlook for clinical lab technicians is positive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 5% job growth between 2022 and 2032. This is faster than the average 3% projected growth for the U.S. job market as a whole. The BLS bases this projection on the increasing number of older individuals who most commonly need medical diagnoses more often, especially in their later stages of life.  

Begin Your Journey Toward Becoming a Medical Lab Technician

Individuals who wish to learn more about how to become a medical lab technician should consider the benefits of the Fortis medical lab technician associate degree program, offered at the Fortis campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This program helps students grasp the fundamentals of key lab technician responsibilities such as techniques for analyzing body fluids and cells, microbiology and immunology testing methods, and the operation and maintenance of laboratory equipment. In as little as 96 weeks, Fortis can help prepare you for your medical lab technician career.

Discover how you can make a difference in healthcare with Fortis.

Recommended Readings
Celebrating Important Women in Healthcare
Could This be the Career for You? A Day in the Life of a Medical Lab Tech
From the Test Tube to the Table: A Lab Tech Career Outside Healthcare

Excedr, “Medical Lab Equipment List To Open Your New Lab”
Indeed, “What Does a Lab Technician Do? (With Steps and Skills)”
Indeed, “What Is a Laboratory Technician”
Indeed, “Medical Laboratory Technician: Duties, Salary and Skills”
Trusted, “Lab Technician”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians