Lab technicians handle materials and produce data used by doctors and researchers for a number of purposes. Short-term diploma and certificate programs allow lab technicians to enter the workforce upon graduation, pending state licensing.
Diploma programs are available for those looking to fulfill the requirements for becoming lab technicians. A lab technician diploma program will typically last 1-2 semesters and focus on one core set of skills used in the laboratory. These diploma programs are typically introductory in nature. Certificate programs are a more common avenue for becoming a lab technician. These programs may last 15 months or more. Completion of an accredited certificate program qualifies aspiring lab technicians for a variety of positions and national certifications. Both types of programs address similar topics, including serology, phlebotomy and laboratory computer applications, but the certificate program includes more in-depth coverage of lab subjects. Admissions requirements vary by school and program, but may include a high school diploma and basic science courses. Professional certification is optional, but is often sought by employers.
Clinical Lab Technician Diploma
These programs provide curricula that are singularly focused in medical laboratory and office procedures. These programs may include courses in the following:
- Medical terminology
- Computer applications in the laboratory
Clinical Lab Technician Certificate
These programs cover the various ways that lab workers analyze and process human tissue and fluid samples. These programs cover topics including the following:
- Cellular biotechnology
- Biotechnology computer programs
Popular Career Options
Not limited to just lab technician work, students who partake in diploma programs may end up in one of several roles. Some related areas that diploma holders may pursue include the following:
- Laboratory assistance
- Medical assistance
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov), the field of medical and clinical laboratory technicians was predicted to grow at a healthier than average pace, with almost 14% employment growth between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the median salary for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was reported by the BLS to be $38,970.
In addition to credentials earned from an accredited program, many employers expect their lab technicians to hold voluntary certification by one of many professional organizations, such as the American Medical Technologists and the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Almost all organizations require examinees to have completed an accredited diploma, certificate or other lab technology degree programs, but other certification guidelines vary.
In some states, laboratory personnel are require to be licensed or certified. These licenses often require a bachelor’s degree in laboratory technology, which would mean additional education for laboratory technician diploma and certificate holders. It is important to understand that a bachelor’s degree is required to work as a laboratory technologist, while only a diploma, certificate or associate’s degree is required to work as a lab technician.
Following the completion of a 15-month certificate program or several semester-long certificate program, lab technicians may want to acquire certification offered by professional organizations. Some states may require licensing, which in itself may entail further education depending on what position you want to hold in the field.