Top Ten Medical Lab Careers

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Careers in the medical field are diverse and numerous--there is something for everyone. For those who are intrigued by how the body works and prefer to work more in the technical lab side, here are 10 medical lab careers to consider.

Phlebotomist

  • A phlebotomist is responsible for drawing blood samples, preparing the samples for testing, and processing the samples. As a phlebotomist, you will deal directly with patients and do some lab work. Phlebotomists do not work in the lab as much as other lab technicians, but they do get their hands dirty in some lab techniques. A phlebotomist might be asked to use a centrifuge to separate plasma from serum and prepare petri dishes with specimens for further lab processing.
    To become a phlebotomist you will need to complete a phlebotomy program. The program can last anywhere from one semester to one year depending on your course load. Phlebotomists have the option of becoming "certified" through testing. It is not required, but some employers prefer it.
    According to the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, the average salary for a phlebotomist is $27,040 annually. There are always opportunities to move into supervisory positions which show an average earning of $35,000 annually.

Pathologist

  • A pathologist uses lab equipment to examine bodily fluids, tissue specimens, and cells to aid in medical diagnosis. A pathologist can be trained in many sub specialties, such as forensic pathology or neuropathology (working with the brain). Pathologists can be found working in hospitals, morgues, or independent labs.
    A pathologist is a physician, and because of this, the career path requires many years of schooling. A pathologist usually completes four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, and a minimum of three years of pathology residency. A pathologist interested in taking up a subspecialty will have to complete an extra year of residency in that field.
    A pathologist can make anywhere from $239,000 to $331,842 annually.

Cytotechnologist

  • Cytology is the study of cells and their structure and function. A cytotechnologist works with a pathologist in examining cells for early detection of diseases like cancer. A cytotechnologist is expected to have an intense knowledge of laboratory technology and research procedures. Cytotechnologists can be found working in private laboratories or hospitals, and some even teach.
    To become a cytotechnologist, you must complete a bachelor's degree and a year of special instruction in cytotechnology. Those interested in moving up to supervisory or teaching positions will need experience and advanced degrees.
    According to the American Medical Association, the median salary for a cytotechnologist ranges from $68,500 to $70,500.

Medical Lab Technician

  • A medical lab technician performs a variety of laboratory tasks under the supervision of either a physician or medical technologist, such as: prepare specimens for analysis, monitor tests, and analyze urine, blood, and tissue samples. Medical lab technicians can be found in hospitals, private labs, and pharmaceutical companies. To become a medical lab technician you will need to have a high school diploma or GED and complete a 1-to-2-year associate degree or certification in a medical lab tech program.
    In 2007, the annual salary for a medical lab technician was from $34,270 to $52,000, according to the American Medical Association.

Medical Technologist

  • A medical technologist is similar to a medical lab technician except a technologist works in a supervisory position. Unlike a technician, a technologist is required to have a bachelor's degree. A technologist will have to confirm the work done by a technician and accept responsibility for the accuracy of results.
    The average salary for a medical technologist is between $52,362 and $62,448.

Microbiology Technician

  • A microbiology technician analyzes unicellular and multi-cellular organisms through laboratory testing. Microbiologists are concerned with how these organisms affect agriculture and health. Microbiology technicians record their findings, and these findings are used by agricultural or pharmaceutical companies to fulfill mandates for the FDA.
    The minimum requirement for microbiology technicians is a 2-year degree in applied microbiology science.
    In 2006, the median income for a microbiology technician was $32,840.

Immunohematology Technologist

  • Immunohematology technologists study disorders of the blood and how they affect the health of the organs. They identify blood types and perform other preparation duties for administering blood transfusions. They use lab equipment to diagnose blood abnormalities for patients in need of transfusions. They are also responsible for storing blood and finding matches.
    Some universities offer a bachelor's degree in hematology, and some community colleges offer a 2-to-3-year technical degree in this field.
    Salaries vary by location, but most job listings for this career path show starting salaries above $35,000.

Cytogenetic Technologist

  • Cytogenetic technologists study human chromosomes in order to find links between genetics and human development. Cytogenetic technologists observe tissue, amniotic fluid, bone marrow, and blood in search of normal and abnormal chromosomes.
    A bachelor's degree in cytogenetics is a requirement.
    The average salary is $41,900.

Histology Technician

  • A histology technician works under a pathologist and is responsible for the preparation and analysis of fluid and tissue specimens in order to diagnose medical conditions.
    The education requirement for a technician is a certification or associate's degree in applied science.
    Histology Technicians earn between $14-$25 an hour.

Molecular Biologist

  • A molecular biologist studies microorganisms and how they affect the human body. They focus on the role molecules play in genetics and heredity. They observe tissue, fluid, and blood samples to analyze DNA. Molecular biologists use very complex equipment and computers to analyze and record data.
    A bachelor's of science in biology or a related field qualifies one to work as a lab assistant or technician. An advanced degree is required to do research.
    Annual earnings are anywhere from $31,250 to $87,060.

References

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