How Do I Become a Medical Lab Technician?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

To become a medical lab technician, you will typically have to start by earning a high school diploma or an equivalent credential. After high school, the next step is usually completing a medical lab technician training program that ends with either a certificate or an associate's degree. You can also choose to seek certification as a medical technician in preparation for this job. Some employers may not require certification, but having it might improve your chances of landing a desirable opportunity.

A medical lab technician placing a test tube in a centrifuge in a lab.
A medical lab technician placing a test tube in a centrifuge in a lab.

As with many careers, the steps you have to take to become a medical lab technician depend on the requirements set by employers in your area. Usually, employers set minimum education requirements of a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) credential as well as completion of a two-year training program. You can also consider a certification program as you work to become a medical lab technician. Earning certification may not be required for pursuing this career, but it might help you land a job and qualify for higher pay.

A medical lab technician working in a laboratory.
A medical lab technician working in a laboratory.

The first step in becoming a medical lab technician is education. Most employers will expect you to earn at least a high school or GED diploma. Following that, you will likely have to complete a program that prepares you to work as a medical lab technician. Often, such programs are available through vocational schools or community colleges. A program might lead to a certificate and take about one year to complete, or it could end in an associate's degree and require about two years of studying.

A medical lab technician holding a urine sample.
A medical lab technician holding a urine sample.

In general, opting for a program that grants an associate's degree may prove a better option than one that only grants a certificate. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have the additional education required to earn an associate's degree, believing that the additional preparation translates into better preparation for the job. Additionally, your starting pay may be higher if you opt to earn an associate's degree rather than a certificate.

In your effort to become a medical lab technician, you might also choose to seek certification in the field. As with choosing to earn an associate's degree versus a certificate, gaining certification may open the doors to more work opportunities and help you to achieve higher pay. Each certifying agency has a different procedure for granting certification, but the process typically involves proving that you have received adequate training and passing an exam.

Medical laboratory technicians may be tasked with maintaining inventory and ordering supplies as needed.
Medical laboratory technicians may be tasked with maintaining inventory and ordering supplies as needed.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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