Medical lab technologists collect and study lab specimens, operate sophisticated laboratory equipment and train and supervise lab technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A bachelor of science degree in lab science is the necessary qualification for a position as a medical laboratory technologist, the BLS reports, adding that the average annual salary for this position in 2012 was $58,640. But salaries for lab technologists varied according to industry, work setting and location.
Covering the Basics
A bachelor of science degree in clinical lab science covers courses such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry and immunology, according to the University of Vermont. In some states, a lab technologist must be licensed or registered, while certification is necessary in other states. Many employers prefer certified technologists, even though not all employers require certification for practice. Continuing education is usually mandatory to maintain licensure or certification.
Industry and Work Setting
Average salaries for lab technologists vary according to industry and work setting, according to the BLS. The most common work settings and industries in 2012 were the federal executive branch; colleges, universities and professional schools; physicians’ offices; medical and diagnostic laboratories; and general medical and surgical hospitals. Lab technologists in physicians’ offices earned $54,510, and those in colleges, universities and professional schools made $55,770. Lab technologists who worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories earned $58,340 and those in general medical and surgical hospitals earned $59,360. Salaries were highest in the federal executive branch, where the average annual salary was $64,100.
East, West and Best
Salaries for medical lab technologists vary by state as well as work setting or industry. States in the West and the Northwest tended to pay higher-than-average salaries, according to the BLS, while states in the South and middle of the country paid less. The lowest-paying state, for example, was South Carolina, where the average annual salary for a lab technologist was $45,140 in 2012. Midrange Kansas lab technologists earned $54,760, and those in Montana made $56,910. Lab technologists in Nevada, one of the top five highest-paying states, earned $66,200. California took honors as the state where lab technologists made the most, with an average annual salary of $77,550.
City Life Pays Better
A medical lab technologist who chooses to live in a rural area may have a lower average salary than one who works in a metropolitan area, according to the BLS. That may not always hold, true, however, depending on how many jobs are available and whether competition for jobs is high, which tends to drive down wages. In Charleston, S.C., for example, 1,230 lab technologists earned an average annual salary of $43,030, while in Burlington, N.C., 240 lab technologists earned $61,270. The top-paying nonmetropolitan area was the Motherlode region of California, where annual salaries averaged $87,020. The top-paying metropolitan area was also in California -- Stockton, where lab technologists earned an average of $91,590.