Medical technologists and technicians share many similarities in their chosen health care field of helping to detect, diagnose and treat disease by examining and analyzing cells and body fluids. Both perform diagnostic scientific tests--bacterial, chemical, biological, immunologic, hematological and microscopic. The main difference between technologists and technicians is their level of education. Medical technologists and technicians are also known as clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, clinical laboratory scientists and medical laboratory technicians.
Medical technologists usually have either a bachelor's degree in medical technology or in a life science discipline. Technicians usually earn a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree or certificate. Both technologists and technicians study microbiology, biology, statistics, mathematics and more. Students in bachelor's degree programs often take courses for three years and perform clinic duty for one year. Prospective students can search the website of the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences for schools offering medical technology programs. Several national organizations certify both medical technologists and technicians, including the American Medical Technologists (AMT).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says medical technologists usually perform more complex procedures than technicians, using techniques such as clinical chemistry, immunohematology, genetics, electron microscopy and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Technicians may prepare specimens and perform automated or manual tests.
Technicians often work under the direction of technologists or laboratory managers. Both can work in hospitals, laboratories, doctors' offices, research laboratories, universities and blood banks.
Technologists and technicians can specialize in a certain area of laboratory science, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says. Technologists often choose an advance discipline such as immunohematology--the collection, typing and preparation of blood for transfusion--and cytotechnology, the preparation and examination of cells for cancerous growth. Technicians can specialize in fields such as phlebotomy, which is the collection of blood samples, and histotechnology, the collection and preparation of tissue for examination by pathologists.
The median annual wage of medical technologists is more than $50,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For medical technicians, the median annual wage is about $15,000 less.
The bureau expects job growth of 14 percent between 2008 and 2018 for all clinical laboratory workers, including medical technologists and technicians. "The volume of laboratory tests continues to increase with both population growth and the development of new types of tests," the bureau says. Hospitals will be among the largest employers.
Though many medical technologists and technicians work in hospitals, "more and more students are branching out into other arenas such as industry, sales, research labs, fertility clinics, information systems, forensics, environmental health, public health and education," says the Ohio State University Medical Technology Division.
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