Both lab technicians and lab technologists work in clinical laboratories performing tests that help detect, diagnose and treat disease. The difference between a lab technician and technologist is that a technologist has more training and performs more complex tests than a technician.
Laboratory technologists usually have a bachelor's degree with a major in medical technology or a life science. Becoming a laboratory technician typically requires either an associate's degree or a certificate. Lab technicians can advance to becoming lab technologists through education or experience.
Some of the job duties of lab technologists may include microscopically examining blood and other body fluids, making cultures of body fluid and tissue samples, analyzing samples for chemical content, evaluating test results and developing and modifying procedures. Lab technicians may prepare specimens and operate automated analyzers or use detailed instructions to perform manual tests.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2009, the median annual salary for lab technicians was $36,030, with 50 percent earning between $28,770 and $45,420. The median annual salary for lab technologists was $55,140, with 50 percent earning between $45,810 and $65,050.
The BLS expects employment of clinical laboratory workers to grow by 14 percent between 2008 and 2018, providing excellent job opportunities for lab technicians and technologists. Although more than half of lab techs work in hospitals, the BLS expects employment to grow rapidly in other settings, such as medical and diagnostic laboratories and the offices of physicians.