Medical laboratory technicians, commonly called med techs or lab techs, work in laboratories, hospitals, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and in private industry. Med techs shouldn’t be confused with medical technologists, who usually have more education -- a bachelor’s degree vs. an associate’s degree -- and a broader base of knowledge. Lab techs test body tissues and fluids, blood, bacteria, and chemical and organic compounds. They normally work under the direction of physicians or medical technologists.
National Salary Averages
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median U.S. salary for medical and clinical laboratory technicians is $36,030, based on 2009 data. The bottom 10th percentile median wage is $23,850 a year, and the top 10th percentile median salary is $55,210. The average salary is $37,860. Salary.com lists the median salary of a medical laboratory technician as $41,379, with a top 10th percentile median salary of $50,012 and a low-end salary of $34,115.
A medical lab tech makes a median hourly wage of $18.54 working in a hospital setting, $17 an hour in a clinic and $16.96 an hour in a physician’s office laboratory, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By contrast, a medical technologist earns $23.45 an hour in a hospital, $23 per hour in a clinic and $20 an hour at a physician’s laboratory. The median salary for med techs at general medical and surgical hospitals is $36,840. At colleges, universities and professional schools, they earn $36,290 a year, and in physician offices the median salary is $33,980. Laboratories pay $32,630 annually and other ambulatory health care facilities pay $31,320.
PayScale, which reports a national median salary range of $29,834 to $41,879 for med techs, also shows a steady progression of wages as lab techs gain experience. Technicians with 20 years or more experience earned $35,438 to $50,709 based on salaries in the 25th to 75th percentiles.Those with 10 to 19 years in the field made $34,653 to $47,892 a year, and med techs with five to 9 years on the job earned $29,939 to $44,479 annually. Lab techs with one to fours years experience made $28,626 to $39,581 per year and rookie technicians made $29,172 to $36,000 during their first year. Medical technologists, by comparison, made a median salary of $50,142 to $66,935 a year with 20 or more years on the job, and a salary range of $34,998 to $48,903 with less than a year’s experience.
The states with the highest average salaries for medical and clinical technicians were Rhode Island at $55,490, Maryland at $45,870 and Connecticut with an average wage of $45,380 a year, according the to Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best-paying metropolitan areas were Champaign-Urbana in Illinois with an average salary of $62,410, Norwich-New London in Connecticut and Rhode Island at $53,340, Salinas, Calif., with a wage of $52,050 annually and the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., area at $52,040. New York City has a median salary of $49,117, according to Salary.com, and New Orleans pays a median salary of $42,041.
A survey of online job listings for medical and clinical lab technicians on April 19, 2011, showed an opening for a clinical laboratory lead technician at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. The position requires an associate’s degree from a Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation-accredited program and pays $3,175 to $4,410 per month, or $38,100 to $52,920 a year.