Clinical laboratory scientists, also known as medical technologists, perform complex tests that play a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis, treatment and management of disease. They examine and analyze body fluids and cells. They look for bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms; analyze the chemical content of fluids, match blood for transfusion; and test drug levels in the blood that show how a patient is responding to treatment. Technologists prepare specimens for examination, count cells, and look for abnormal cells in blood and body fluids. They use microscopes, cell counters, and other sophisticated laboratory equipment. They also use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests simultaneously. With increasing automation and the use of computer technology, the work of technologists has become less hands-on and more analytical. After testing and examining a specimen, technologists analyze the results and relay them to physicians.
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories
- Physician offices
- Outpatient care centers
Clinical lab technologists who work in small laboratories perform many types of tests, and those who work in large laboratories generally specialize. Lab personnel are trained to work with infectious specimens. With strict adherence to proper methods of infection control and sterilization, few hazards exist. Protective eyewear, masks, gloves and gowns are often necessary to ensure the safety of lab personnel. Lab technologists may spend a good deal of time on their feet.
Work schedules will vary depending on the employment setting. Large hospitals and independent labs that operate round the clock will have corresponding shifts. Lab personnel may have schedules that require some on-call, weekend, or holiday shifts.
Employment of clinical laboratory technologist/medical technologists is expected to increase 14 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. The volume of laboratory tests is expected to increase with population growth, the growing elderly population, the development of new tests, and healthcare reform which is expected to increase the number of people accessing healthcare. Job opportunities are expected to be excellent because the number of job openings is expected to continue to exceed the number of job seekers.
- Ability to perform complex laboratory procedures
- Strong analytical and problem solving skills
- Ability to work well under stress
- Ability to pay close attention to detail
- Excellent communication skills
- Ability to work independently as well as with others
- High level of integrity and responsibility
- Good organizational skills
- Good computer skills
- Manual dexterity and normal color vision
Clinical laboratory technologists/medical technologists (CLS/MT) generally require a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or in one of the life sciences. Degree programs in medical technology include courses in chemistry, biological sciences, microbiology, mathematics, statistics, and specialized courses devoted to knowledge and skills used in the clinical laboratory.
Certification requires completion of a bachelor’s degree program and passing a national examination given by either the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Medical Technologists, the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel or the Board of Registry of the American Association of Bioanalysts. Nebraska does not require licensing, but some states do. Information is available from State departments or boards of occupational licensing.
Programs in Nebraska
- University of Nebraska Medical Center – Omaha (Bachelor’s)
Colleges offering educational requirements leading to a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology upon completion of the student’s professional education in a NAACLS accredited program:
- Chadron State College – Chadron
- College of Saint Mary – Omaha
- University of Nebraska – Kearney
- Wayne State College – Wayne
Pre-professional educational requirements (3 years of college) may be completed at:
- Bellevue University – Bellevue
- Concordia University – Seward
- Creighton University – Omaha
- Doane College – Crete
- Hastings College – Hastings
- Midland Lutheran College – Fremont
- Nebraska Wesleyan University – Lincoln
- Peru State College – Peru
- Union College – Lincoln
- University of Nebraska – Kearney, Lincoln, Omaha
Related / Links
Other careers that analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances, using a variety of tests:
For a list of accredited and approved NAACLS programs for clinical laboratory personnel:
For additional career information and certification:
- American Society for Clinical Pathology
- American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
- Nebraska Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
- American Medical Technologists
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, on the Internet at www.bls.gov