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The career path for lab technicians in fertility clinics is evolving, in part because the field of assisted reproductive technology (ART) is still relatively new, Traditionally, lab technicians in fertility clinics had backgrounds in animal in vitro fertilization (IVF) or general clinical lab backgrounds. Current expectations for lab technicians may include embryology-specific education, hands-on-training and a state license.
Earn a bachelors degree in either medical technology or one of the life sciences, usually biology or chemistry. Take courses in reproductive biology and embryology so that you understand the science behind the work you will do.
Become technically skilled at various procedures including semen analysis, egg identification at retrieval, fertilization assessment, embryo assessment, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), assisted hatching and embryo biopsy.
Attend hands-on training programs offered by some of the larger IVF programs such as the Cleveland Clinic's IVF Program and obtain a certificate of completion.
Learn the essentials of quality control and quality assurance in a laboratory environment.
Become licensed to do lab work if required in your state. License requirements vary by state but typically require a bachelor's degree and passing a licensing state exam, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Review the educational and training standards for technicians working in clinical laboratories as outlined in The Clinical Laboratory and Improvement Act of 1988. The Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act of 1992 also has suggested standards for IVF laboratory personnel.
Become board certified as a Technical Supervisor in the specialties of andrology and embryology. The American Board of Bioanalysts (ABB) offers specialty review programs and administer the board exams.
Become board certified as a High Complexity Lab Director (HCLD) through ABB if you meet the educational requirements. Laboratory director positions require a Ph.D. in a life science or M.D. in pathology with appropriate lab experience.
Retain your professional certification by taking continuing education courses in laboratory topics as required by your certifying board.
Become a member of professional societies like American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the Society for Reproductive Technology (SART) and the American Association of Bioanalysts (ABB).
To be successful as a fertility lab technician, you must be a detail-oriented person with a focused mind to avoid losing microscopic eggs and embryos. You must have a combination of good technical skills and an emotionally warm, yet professional, demeanor with patients.
Being a fertility lab technician requires personal sacrifice because weekend and holiday work is expected at all levels in the organization. Job opportunities for fertility lab technicians are scarce because there are fewer than 500 fertility labs in the United States.
Carole Wegner is a Ph.D. scientist and in-vitro fertilization lab director in the Midwest. For more than 20 years, she has published scientific findings in peer-reviewed journals such as "Endocrinology" and "Fertility & Sterility" and also written on the topic of ethics in reproductive medicine.