Can You Become A Medical Technologist With A Biology Degree

Last Updated on March 4, 2023 by

Physicians and surgeons save lives every day, but their achievements would not be possible without the efforts of those working behind the scenes. The medical laboratory technician (MLT), for example, performs all sorts of lab tests that are critical for disease detection and treatment. The minimum requirement for this profession is an associate’s degree in medical laboratory sciences.

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how to become a medical lab technician

Working as a medical laboratory technician requires in-depth knowledge of chemistry, anatomy, microbiology and other related fields. A degree in biology doesn’t qualify you for this job, but you may complete a graduate or certificate program in clinical laboratory science to become an MLT.

Medical Laboratory Technician Education Requirements

Medical lab technicians are responsible for analyzing bodily fluids, cross-matching donor blood for transfusions, identifying blood clotting abnormalities and more. They use sophisticated biomedical tools to perform their job and have in-depth knowledge of human anatomy, biology, chemistry and other related fields. Those who work in larger labs typically specialize in one area, such as immunology.

This profession requires a good knowledge of biology, but you need more than that to work as an MLT. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those who choose this career path often complete an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory science. Most entry-level jobs require an associate’s degree in life sciences or medical technology at the very least.

As the BLS notes, aspiring MLTs who attend vocational or technical schools may be able to take a medical laboratory science course to get certified in this field. The same goes for those serving in the Armed Forces. Generally, entry-level lab technicians can only perform routine clinical tests. A bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory sciences can teach you the skills needed for more complex work.

Earn a Graduate Degree

The first step to a career as an MLT is to earn an associate’s degree in a relevant field. Nassau Community College, for example, offers an associate degree program in applied science. Upon completion, students can take the National Board of Certification (BOC) exam to become certified as MLTs by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

If you’re ready to advance your career, enroll in a bachelor’s degree program recognized by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). The University of Utah’s Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science, for instance, gives students the opportunity to gain practical experience in hospitals. Graduates are eligible to take the certification exam administered by the ASCP.

Later, you may specialize in one or more areas of laboratory science, such as cytotechnology or clinical chemistry. Cytotechnologists, for example, need a bachelor’s degree or higher and at least three years of experience, according to the American Society for Cytotechnology. Depending on the state, students may also need to complete an accredited cytotechnology certificate program to work in the field.

Obtain Licensing and Certifications

Some states require medical lab technicians to be licensed, notes the BLS. To obtain your license, it’s necessary to complete a certification program and pass the exam administered by the ASCP or other credentialing agencies. Many employers prefer to hire certified laboratory personnel, so that’s something to consider when planning your career.

Certification requirements vary among organizations. Generally, it’s required to graduate from an accredited medical laboratory technology program – like those listed above – and gain hands-on experience. The ASCP Board of Certification (BOC), for example, requires candidates to complete an associate degree program or 60 semester hours of academic credit and an MLT program approved by the NAACLS or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

MLTs who complete an associate’s degree and U.S. military medical lab training are eligible for the BOC exam, too. A third option is to earn an associate’s degree and acquire three years of full-time clinical experience in an accredited lab. If both conditions are met, you may take the BOC exam.

Obtaining an MLT certification isn’t easy, but it may enhance your career. The average medical technologist salary is $53,120 per year, according to the BLS. About 10 percent of those who choose this career path earn $81,530 or more. Medical technologist certification programs can help you secure a high-paying job in the field.

How To Become a Medical Technologist

Medical Technologist

Avg. Salary
$54,780

Education Duration
4+ Years

Job Outlook
7%

If you are the type of person who enjoys working in the medical field but would prefer to stay in the background, then a career as a Medical Technologist might work for you.

As a Medical Technologist, also known as a clinical laboratory scientist, you will work with samples from patients to determine different types of illnesses or other information.

This is done by using microscopes, computers, and lab instruments in order to determine the findings.

If you enjoy science and working with small samples, this could be the job you’re looking for.

TOP MEDICAL CAREERS

  • Dental Assistant
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dialysis Technician
  • EKG Technician
  • EMT
  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Home Health Aide
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Technologist
  • MRI Technologist
  • Optician
  • Patient Care Technician
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Phlebotomist
  • Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Radiation Therapist
  • Registered Health Information Technician
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Surgical Technologist
  • Ultrasound Technician
  • Veterinary Technician
  • X-Ray Technician

What is a Medical Technologist?

In a hospital setting, you may be familiar with nurses and doctors, but a Medical Technologist is not so well-known behind the scenes role.

Most Medical Technologists work in labs or clinics, where they provide several different tests on patient samples.

Samples can range from blood to urine, or other bodily fluids, as well as testing body or skin tissue.

Having a career as a Medical Technologist means that you must be efficient in chemistry and biology, as well as the medical field.

Duties

There are a number of tasks that are assigned to a Medical Technologist on a daily basis.

In a typical lab, most Medical Technologists will:

  • Determine normal and abnormal components of body fluids
  • Analyze blood samples
  • Prepare blood, platelets, and plasma for transfusion
  • Prepare reports
  • Maintain laboratory supplies
  • Provide medical technologist information to patients
  • Assist the medical team with diagnosis and treatment

Salary

Most Medical Technologists that work in the United States make about $54,000 a year.

After many years of experience, certification, and specializations, it’s possible to make more than $80,000 a year.

If you are looking to start your career as a Medical Technologist, you should expect a salary closer to $40,000 to begin.

There are chances to earn raises and promotions in this career, which will allow for higher salaries.

Having a Bachelor’s degree can help with promotions and can lead to senior roles in the medical field.

The best way to earn a higher salary is to earn certification and have hands-on experience.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $54,780

$30K$39K$54K$68K$81K10%25%50%75%90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$46,400
Alaska$72,690
Arizona$50,750
Arkansas$44,100
California$62,890
Colorado$57,850
Connecticut$67,900
Delaware$62,050
District of Columbia$62,730
Florida$51,960
Georgia$51,450
Hawaii$60,230
Idaho$48,250
Illinois$51,620
Indiana$47,650
Iowa$48,520
Kansas$48,350
Kentucky$52,500
Louisiana$48,230
Maine$54,350
Maryland$56,160
Massachusetts$60,070
Michigan$50,870
Minnesota$56,330
Mississippi$46,270
Missouri$49,460
Montana$56,080
Nebraska$52,440
Nevada$61,740
New Hampshire$62,190
New Jersey$64,540
New Mexico$49,210
New York$65,560
North Carolina$51,590
North Dakota$51,570
Ohio$52,700
Oklahoma$47,580
Oregon$64,880
Pennsylvania$53,540
Rhode Island$68,000
South Carolina$50,020
South Dakota$48,820
Tennessee$52,970
Texas$52,720
Utah$49,720
Vermont$58,760
Virginia$54,950
Washington$59,900
West Virginia$49,430
Wisconsin$52,220
Wyoming$54,050
Guam$39,660
Puerto Rico$31,900
Virgin Islands$48,100

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $72,690.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:Alaska – $72,690Rhode Island – $68,000Connecticut – $67,900New York – $65,560Oregon – $64,880* Salary information based on May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, OCC Code 29-2010, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Medical Technologist

Step 1 Earn a Degree

In order to become a Medical Technologist, you must have a Bachelor’s degree in medical technology or a related major in life science.

On average, a Bachelor’s degree takes about four years to finish.

Through a typical medical technology program, you can expect courses like:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Healthcare ethics
  • Biostatistics
  • Genetics
  • Mycology
  • Phlebotomy
  • Immunology

At some colleges, there are online programs where you can learn right from your own home.

If you are interested in online learning, make sure that all of your lab work is done in-person to gain hands-on experience.

There are also some programs that may take less time if you already have an Associate’s degree.

Developing great math and science skills are necessary for this type of degree.

Step 2 Become Licensed

Once you earn a degree, you will need to look into whether or not your state requires that you become licensed.

There are currently eleven states that require licensure:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

If you currently live in a state that does not require licensure but plan to live and work in a state that does, you will need to become licensed.

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science will have more information, but if your state requires licensure,  you will likely be required to:

  • Pass an exam
  • Have at least 12-24 contact hours in the last two years
  • Pay the $25-$100 fee
  • Have graduated from a Bachelors degree program in the last 24 months

Step 3 Gain Experience

If you didn’t need to gain licensure to work in your state, then you are ready to start your career as soon as you have that degree in your hand.

However, there are some Medical Technologists that choose to do internships or shadow senior Medical Technologists in order to become more familiar with their work.

The school you attend for your medical technology degree can possibly set you up with an internship or other experience.

There are some other places to gain experience as well:

  • Clinics as a medical technician
  • Assisting in a laboratory
  • Work as a patient care technician

Taking the time to learn the career before applying for a job will increase your hiring odds.

Those with experience are also eligible to become certified as a Medical Technologist.

Step 4 Become Certified

After a couple of years of working as a Medical Technologist, you can become certified in the field.

Two accredited and widely accepted associations for Medical Technologists certifications are:

  • The American Medical Technologists
  • American Society for Clinical Pathology

The American Medical Technologists association offers the Certified Medical Technologist credential.

To earn this certification, you must have a Bachelor’s degree as well as clinical experience.

It’s also necessary to pass the AMT Medical Technologist Exam.

The American Society of Clinical Pathology offers several certifications for Medical Technologists:

  • Blood Banking
  • Chemistry
  • Hematology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cytogenetics

Each one of these can be earned by taking an exam, and they are good for five years.

After which you must recertify.

Education

If you are on the road to becoming a Medical Technologist, you will want to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

This is because the career is heavily based on science, chemistry, and biology in particular, which a medical technology degree is perfect for.

A Bachelor’s degree in medical technology takes around four years to complete for full-time students, and that includes any clinical labs or internships.

It’s typical that you will take several science courses in a medical technology program, but some other courses that you should expect are:

  • Hematology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Structure and Function
  • Immunology
  • Clinical Microscopy
  • Statistics
  • Lab Management

With a Bachelors degree in medical technology, you can expect several career opportunities, including:

  • Senior Researcher
  • Lab Manager
  • Clinical Supervisor
  • Lab Operator in a Diagnostics Lab
  • Medical Lab Scientist at a Hospital

Having classroom time can be done online or in person, but make sure that when you do lab work it is done at an actual lab or clinic.

This is to ensure you understand how to perform specific procedures with hands-on experience.

Your college or university should be able to help you set this up.

Have you already earned a Bachelor’s degree in medical technology and want to expand your career further?

You may be interested in earning a Master’s degree, which can provide even bigger promotions and raises as a Medical Technologist.

A Master’s degree program can take about two years to finish, which will include much more information about the medical field, as well as chemistry and biology.

The courses to expect in a Masters level program include:

  • Virology
  • Protein chemistry
  • Healthcare financial operations
  • Enzymology
  • Computer-based instrumentation

Most Master’s level programs require a lot of independent research as well.

Some Masters level programs also provide certification through the program, so this is something to look into as well.

If your state requires licensing, you should apply before graduating from your Bachelor’s degree program is finished.

Licensing and Certification

Earning certification as a Medical Technologist isn’t necessary to gain employment, but many hospitals and laboratories prefer to employ those with credentials.

One thing that may be required in several states is licensure.

11 states require that Medical Technologists hold licensure, these states are:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

The application requirements for each of these states may be different, but most of them require that applicants have a Bachelor’s degree, and at least 12 hours of clinical experience as a Medical Technologist.

After passing an exam, you can work as a licensed Medical Technologist in the state in which you passed the exam.

After two years of experience working as a Medical Technologist, you can become certified by several associations, but you must make sure they are accredited.

Two associations that have accreditation for Medical Technologists are:

  • The American Medical Technologists
  • The American Society for Clinical Pathology

Each of these associations has its own certifications, which have individual requirements.

The American Medical Technologist association offers The Medical Technologist certification.

In order to be eligible for this certification, you must possess at least a Bachelor’s degree in medical technology or another life science.

You also must have laboratory training through a career, not just through school.

This certification costs $200 to apply for, once you meet the criteria you will receive confirmation that you can take the exam.

The exam is multiple-choice and consists of many topics:

  • General Laboratory
  • Clinical Chemistry
  • Hematology
  • Coagulation and Hemostasis
  • Immunology and Serology
  • Blood Banking and Transfusion

Once you pass the exam, you will be considered certified as a Medical Technologist.

This certification requires you to recertify after 5 years.

The American Society of Clinical Pathology has several areas to certify in:

  • Blood Banking
  • Technologist in Chemistry
  • Technologist in Cytogenetics
  • Cytotechnologist
  • Technologist in Hematology
  • Technologist in Microbiology
  • Medical Laboratory Scientist
  • Technologist in Molecular Biology
  • Histotechnologist

Every certification requires a $240 non-refundable application fee.

Before taking the exam, you must have a Bachelor’s degree and a specific amount of experience, depending on the certification.

In order to become certified, an exam must be taken and passed.

Depending on the certification, the exam may differ, but most are multiple-choice and can be taken at your local community college.

Certification Example:

Medical Technologist Certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

The best training when working as a Medical Technologist is on the job.

Most associations that are accredited for certifying Medical Technologists require around two years of experience before being eligible to apply for certification.

This means that you will need to have two years of work experience in a lab, hospital, or other medical facilities in order to be eligible to gain certification.

Once you are eligible, certification may take several weeks to a couple of months to achieve.

Job Outlook

Those who work as Medical Technologists in labs across the United States should not worry about losing the career anytime soon.

This career will rise around 7 percent over the next ten years, the growth is due to the aging population and technology advancements.

The baby boomer generation is growing older, which means they will need medical care for diseases like diabetes, cancer, and other issues.

Also, advancements in technology have provided many different areas of study, including prenatal.

Most job prospects will go toward people who earn a Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent in the field of medical technology.

Employment Growth Projection: 7%

337,800
2019362,500
2029

That’s a higher than average projected growth of 24,700

Should You Become a Medical Technologist?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

Working in the medical field means that you get to help people every day, and as a Medical Technologist, that feeling makes the job enjoyable.

Not only that, but many Medical Technologists enjoy the hours, but do believe that there is quite a lot of stress in this career.

Overall, the career satisfaction for Medical Technologists is high.

The people most suitable for this career are those who are good with practical, hands-on jobs where problem-solving is the main focus.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

On average, a Medical Technologist will make around $54,000 a year in the United States.

That is typically after a couple of years of experience in the field, when just beginning a career as a Medical Technologist, most people make closer to $40,000 a year.

After certification, many years of experience, and other promotions, it’s possible to make over $80,000 a year in some areas as a Medical Technologist.

Medical Technologists working in large hospitals in California will make around $62,000 a year, while those working in smaller populations, like Delaware, will make closer to $51,000 a year.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

The growth of this career will be outstanding over the next several years.

Until about 2030, the career of a Medical Technologist will rise around 7 percent.

Due to technological advancements, it’s now possible to do more tests to determine illnesses.

This has created many more jobs for Medical Technologist, and this trend will likely not end any time soon.

Expect to be able to find job opportunities as a Medical Technologist in large cities and around hospitals or even universities.

If you are looking to start a career as a Medical Technologist, now is a perfect time.

Education Duration: 4+ Years

Education Duration

In order to be a successful Medical Technologist, it is important to earn a Bachelor’s degree in medical technology.

Most Bachelor’s degree programs for full-time students take about four years to finish.

For part-time students, it can take roughly 5 to 6 years to complete a Bachelor’s degree.

Certification and licensing, which may be required in some states, can take anywhere from one to two years to be eligible for.

It can take anywhere from 4 to 6 years to become a Medical Technologist.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Having a career as a Medical Technologist doesn’t just mean you need to be good at chemistry and math, some other personal skills you should have for a successful career include:

  • Leadership skills
  • Incredible communication skills
  • Ability to work alone and with a group
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Empathy
  • Stamina
  • Technology knowledge
  • Detail-oriented
  • Strong analytical thinking skills

As a Medical Technologist, you could make a difference in someone’s life.

This career can be stressful, but developing these qualities can help you succeed.