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What Does a Histology Technician Do?
A histology technician plays an important role in the diagnosis of disease. Using specialized equipment, a histologist prepares sample tissue slides and works alongside pathologists to discover potential abnormalities. College courses and a certificate program are required to become prepared for this career. Most medical facilities also require certification by the American Society for Clinical Pathology.
Look at the Histologist Job Description
Attention to detail, strong communication skills and proficiency in operating specialized lab equipment are critical attributes of a histology technician. The work of a histologist is varied and ranges from picking up specimens from surgery to assisting in the examination of frozen section procedures. A surgeon relies on a histology technician to keep accurate records, use stains to create sample slides and cut tissue sections for examination.
Given the sensitive nature of these responsibilities, a histologist must be vigilant in preserving samples and providing accurate information to the diagnosing physician. Other responsibilities include:
- Cleaning the lab utensils
- Surveying inventory and ordering needed supplies
- Preparing reports
- Setting up equipment
- Prioritizing work assignments
- Properly storing specimens
- Maintaining confidentiality
- Labeling specimens
- Appropriately disposing of hazardous waste and chemicals
- Performing routine lab procedures and quality control measures
Prepare to Become a Histology Technician
If you’re interested in becoming a histology technician, begin by earning an associate degree. Focusing on the sciences will give you the best preparation. Take classes like anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, cell biology and microanatomy.
You’ll also need to complete a histology technician program. Many schools offer this program as part of an associate degree. A histologist degree program will include classes like medical terminology, general principles of histology and histology technical classes.
You’ll also complete laboratory practical experience to help you master the functions of the job. The final step is to take a certification exam administered by the American Society of Clinical Pathology. This certification is a signal to future employers that you have the credentials to do the job.
Specialize as a Histology Technician
Once you’ve worked as a histology technician, you can choose to specialize in a particular area of medical laboratory work. Specializing will set you apart from others and give you an advantage in the workforce. You may also earn additional income as a result of your specialization. Some areas of specialization include:
- Dermatology specimens
- Kidney biopsies
- Frozen sectioning
- Muscle biopsies
- Immunohistochemistry staining
Some laboratories will provide on-the-job training for specializations, or you can choose to take additional coursework to gain individual competencies. You can also go on to teach students who are aspiring to become a histology technician.
Review the Work Environment and Hours
Most histology technician jobs are confined to eight-hour shifts. Since many labs are open 24 hours per day, work schedule flexibility is an option with this job. You can find positions in this career field in hospitals, clinics and private laboratories. You can even work for pharmaceutical companies, veterinary clinics or research labs.
If you’re interested in increased pay and responsibility, you can move into laboratory management or work in quality assurance.
Consider the Histologist Salary and Job Outlook
In 2018, the average annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technicians was $52,330, or $25.16 per hour. Pay varies by state and employer. For example, surgical hospitals may pay as much as $55,040, and offices of physicians may pay closer to $47,060.
An accelerated need for histology technicians is projected between now and 2026, with an increase of 14 percent. An increase in older adults and new medical advances have contributed to the need for more laboratory technicians in the workforce.
Dr. Kelly Meier has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and has 30+ years of experience in higher education. She is the author and co-author of 15 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education with Kinect Education Group. She is the co-owner of a small business and a regular contributor for The Equity Network. She has numerous publications published by Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.