"Medical technology" covers a wide range of medical professions, but usually refers to medical laboratory technicians and technologists (also known as medical laboratory scientists). Medical technologists and laboratory technicians are healthcare practitioners who combine their love of science and helping people to assist physicians with the discovery and diagnosis of disease and infections.
Online medical laboratory technology degree programs are a great way to obtain a solid academic foundation before applying that knowledge in the field. One of the key benefits to online learning is the flexibility it provides. Since lectures and coursework are completed online, students can design a study schedule around any work or family commitments that they already have.
Online students are typically required to partake in clinical practicums at local hospitals or labs, providing them with valuable real world experience they can use in their future careers.
Medical laboratory technicians and medical technologists usually perform many of the same duties.
However, becoming a laboratory technologist generally requires that you have a bachelor's degree while laboratory technicians are usually required to have an associate degree or a postsecondary certificate.
Laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to see if there are any irregularities. These tests are typically ordered by a physician. The samples provided may include bodily fluids and tissue samples. However, some medical laboratory technician's responsibilities may extend beyond this scope. They also could be expected to do any of the following on the job:
A medical laboratory technician analyzes these samples, records their observations and informs the doctor of the test results. Laboratory technologists are typically given more responsibility than a technician and the job usually involves complex performance of tests and a greater level of judgment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the majority of students who earn a degree in this field choose to work in a hospital or clinical lab setting. And, although a hospital setting can be the most common work environment, medical technologists and technicians also may find work in diagnostic laboratories, universities, or a private practice.
While most graduates with a medical laboratory technology degree choose to work in hospital lab environments, these degrees can lead to a number of different occupations in the medical field. The table below provides occupational information related to medical technology degrees.
Medical laboratory technician programs come in many forms at the undergraduate level, including certificate and degree routes.
Like traditional on-campus programs, online laboratory technician degree programs often require students to successfully complete a clinical practicum to graduate. These practicums are completed under the direct supervision of medical laboratory professionals at local hospitals, clinics, or labs. Students use this time to acquire the valuable hands-on knowledge necessary to become successful laboratory technicians. Additionally, students may meet valuable professional contacts who can help them find work after college.
Take a look at what you can expect to learn, typical coursework involved and what you can do after completing a particular education program.
Prospective students interested in a certificate program should exhibit an interest in the scientific process as well as health-related topics. At the certificate level, many lab programs are available in lab assisting or medical assisting and may help students to prepare to seek entry-level positions.
Prerequisite: High school diploma
Typical duration: Less than a year
Typical coursework: Courses in a medical laboratory assisting program may include:
A practicum, or some type of hands-on experience, may also be required of students to help them further gain skills and to piece together all of the new knowledge they have about working in a laboratory.
A student with a certificate may be able to work as a medical lab assistant or even a clinical lab assistant. In some cases, students may be able transfer credits from a certificate program into a degree program at the associate or bachelor's level.
Students enrolled in online clinical laboratory technician degree programs at the associate degree level can expect to gain the knowledge and technical skills needed to obtain entry-level employment as a laboratory technician.
Prerequisites: High school diploma
Typical duration: Two years
Typical coursework: While the curriculum can vary by degree level and institution, students enrolled in associate degree programs typically complete courses, such as:
Clinical experiences are also very important at the associate level of the medical technologist degree program. The number of hours necessary may vary by school or by state, but these experiences provide students with hands-on experiences working in a lab and gaining more knowledge about a laboratory environment and expectations.
Students who have an associate degree in medical laboratory technology may be able to become a medical laboratory technician, pathology research assistant, phlebotomist, quality control technician, or specimen processor. Students also can invest time trying out a job or they may continue on to a more extensive degree program, if they feel the discipline is a good fit.
At the bachelor's level most degree programs are for medical laboratory technologists. Students can receive a deep and diverse understanding of the science that is needed to understand what goes on in a medical laboratory. An interest in biology, chemistry, and genetics is helpful. Potential students should also enjoy performing scientific tests and experiments using lab equipment.
Prerequisites: High school diploma, associate degree in related field
Typical coursework: Medical technology students take classes in a variety of subjects, including biology, general chemistry, genetics, physics, biochemistry and organic chemistry. An online medical technology degree program may include courses, such as:
Electives: Bachelor's level online medical technology degree programs almost always require completion of general education classes and give students the opportunity to complete electives.
Clinical experiences are also part of a bachelor's degree program and these requirements may vary by state or by school. Students typically finish the clinical portion of their programs at area hospitals while working under the supervision of a professional medical technologist. A capstone project also may be required in the final year of school.
Medical laboratory technology degree programs may be used to prepare for a career as a lab technologist, a supervisor of medical technicians, a lab manager, or as a stepping stone to a graduate-level degree. Graduates of a clinical laboratory technician degree program might be able to find employment working in a lab specializing in:
Accreditation is a process in which an outside organization looks at programs offered by a school to determine whether they are high-level quality programs and satisfactorily prepare students for intended careers or occupations. If you plan to be a certified medical technologist, make sure you consider enrolling in an accredited school. There are different types of accreditation:
While certification may not always be necessary to get a job in the field of medical technology, many employers do require candidates to be certified. Certification shows employers that the candidate has been evaluated and known to possess the skills and knowledge essential to successfully perform the job. Certified candidates may enjoy higher pay or promotional opportunities.
After completing a degree program students may apply for certifications through the following organizations:
At least 11 states require medical technicians and technologists to be licensed before they begin their practice. These are California, Hawaii, Florida, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee, Louisiana, Nevada, West Virginia, Montana, Georgia. State laws can vary, but according to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, licensures typically involve:
Students may want to pursue graduate-level work to further pursue a field they enjoy. This could include a master's degree program in a field like biomedical science, laboratory science or pathology or even a doctoral degree program in medical sciences.
Specific degree specializations can help students attain the specialized education necessary for certain career paths. This is particularly true at the graduate level. Here are a few of the most common specializations for medical technology degrees:
Students hoping to work in this field should enjoy working on scientific experiments and have an interest in health-related professions.
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.
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