Medical lab technologists, also referred to as clinical lab technologists, perform tests that diagnose and discover diseases and analyze chemical contents of fluids. They look for bacteria and parasites, examine bodily fluids and analyze conclusions to ascertain accurate results. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, predicts that career opportunities for medical lab technologists will increase 14 percent between 2008 and 2018, a rate faster than the average for all careers.
U.S. News and World Report puts clinical lab technicians in the list of the 50 best career opportunities of 2010, referring to them as “the unsung heroes of the health care industry.” A medical lab technologist provides vital information that doctors and researchers need to make a diagnosis, cure a disease or even save a life. When patients require a blood transfusion, for example, a medical lab technologist studies blood samples to ensure compatibility. Knowing that what you do behind the scenes directly affects people's lives is extremely satisfying and rewarding.
Medical lab technologists can choose to work in a smaller lab environment and perform a variety of tests or work in a larger laboratory and specialize in one area of testing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics describes some of the specializations; for example, clinical chemistry technologists analyze chemical and hormonal parts of bodily fluids, while microbiology technologists investigate bacteria. Other areas of specialized technologists include molecular biology, immunology and cytotechnology, which detects diseases at the cellular level. The opportunity to choose an area of focus adds to the ongoing challenge and excitement of the job.
The labor bureau reports that the annual rate for medical and clinical lab technologists in May 2008 was $53,500, with technologists at the federal level reporting incomes of nearly $60,000 per year.
A medical lab technologist may also train, supervise and direct lab technicians, assistants and other lab employees. These responsibilities prepare a lab technologist for promotion opportunities and continuing career growth. Technologists can move into a supervisory position, become a chief medical technologist, laboratory manager or a laboratory director. Other career paths include product development, sales, and marketing for manufacturers of laboratory equipment and supplies.