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How to Become a Clinical Laboratory Scientist in California

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Clinical laboratory scientists in California work in medical laboratories at clinics and hospitals, testing and examining specimens to aid other health care professionals when making diagnoses or prescribing treatments. Duties approved by the state of California include supervising others performing testing of specimens and cultures. Gaining licensure in California requires an extensive process, including graduation from college with a bachelor’s degree in a scientific discipline, completing an approved internship, passing a national exam and submitting an application for a license.

Graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry. Students must complete 18 semester hours in biology, 16 semester hours in chemistry, three semester hours in physics and three hours in college mathematics at the undergraduate level. Students must have hematology, medical microbiology, and quantitative analysis as courses listed on their transcripts. Students must attend a regionally accredited college or university conferring such degrees and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above to qualify for a CLS trainee license while undergoing their internship. Prospective students should research colleges and universities in California to determine admission procedures and curriculum as these vary considerably among educational institutions.

Complete a one-year internship with an approved university, clinic, or hospital. A CLS trainee license is required to participate in an internship. Candidates may apply for that license through the university or organization offering the internship. San Francisco State University offers one such program, well recognized in California, while the California Association for Medical Laboratory Technology posts an extensive list of such approved programs (see Resources).

Sit for and pass the national exam offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCPBC) and gain licensure. Candidates will apply for a license in California at the same time they register to take the exam. The comprehensive exam will measure a candidate's overall knowledge and application of laboratory sciences and specimen testing equipment and procedures. Candidates must download an application from the ASCPBC and complete by following all instructions listed on the application (see Resources). Candidates will receive a guidebook for preparing for the exam, along with a complete breakdown of the exam components and scheduling information once approved. Candidates must remit the application to the address listed on the form and remit a fee of $210.


Candidates should take the national certification exam immediately upon completing their internship for the best chance of passing.


A felony conviction will disqualify a candidate from gaining licensure as a clinical laboratory scientist in California.