Medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians work in hospitals, universities, diagnostic laboratories and physician's offices performing laboratory tests to analyze blood, urine and tissue samples. Requirements to become a technologist or technician vary by state, but may include completing the required education and passing an exam. Although certification is not required in many cases, employers often favor applicants with a current certification. In addition, certified laboratory professionals earn higher salaries. The American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification offers credentials for both technicians and technologists.
Medical Laboratory Technician Certification
Medical laboratory technicians perform routine medical testing and generally need only a bachelor's degree to enter the field. They may qualify to take the American Society for Clinical Pathology certification exam in one of four ways. All four paths require at least an associate degree or 60 semester credits. In addition, applicants must have taken a National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences Medical Laboratory Technician program within five years of application. Alternatively, applicants must complete six semester credits each of chemistry and biology and have a current American Society for Clinical Pathology Clinical Lab Assistant certification or three years of full-time experience in a clinical laboratory. Applicants also can qualify by completing a military medical laboratory training class lasting at least 50 weeks. Beginning in 2015, applicants qualifying with military training must have completed the course within the past 10 years.
Medical Technologist Certification
Medical technologists not only perform routine and complex medical testing, they also validate tests and evaluate results. After the American Society for Clinical Pathology's merger with the National Credentialing Agency in October 2009, certification for medical technologists changed to the medical laboratory scientist certification. Applicants seeking the medical laboratory scientist certification also may qualify in one of four ways, all of which require at least a bachelor's degree. In addition applicants must pass a National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences Medical Laboratory Scientist program within five years of application or complete five years of full-time experience in a clinical laboratory. Alternatively, applicants can qualify with a medical laboratory technician certification and two years of full-time experience in a clinical laboratory or a clinical lab assistant certification and four years of full-time experience in a clinical laboratory.
After obtaining documents to prove eligibility to take the certification exam, applicants must submit an application to the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification with the required application fee. The fee is $200 for the medical laboratory technician certification and $225 for the medical laboratory scientist certification, as of 2014. If the Board accepts the application, the applicant will have a three-month window to take the examination. Applicants may retake the examination a total of five times under each qualification route. Upon successful completion of the examination, the ASCP issues the medical laboratory technician or medical laboratory scientist certification.
Both medical technologists and medical laboratory technicians must renew their certifications every three years by participating in the certification maintenance program. This program requires individuals to successfully attain 36 points every three years to maintain their certification. One contact hour of continuing education is equivalent to one point. Technologists and technicians also may earn points by authoring journal articles, serving on active committees in the field or completing a master's thesis. At least one point must be in laboratory or patient safety. In addition, two points each are required in the areas of microbiology, chemistry, blood banking and hematology.