How Do I Choose the Best School for Medical Technologists?
Medical technologists are advanced clinical laboratory workers who run tests on and examine samples of tissue or bodily fluids to determine the presence or extent of chemicals and disease. As members of the health industry, medical technologists need to be educated at a good school to ensure their techniques are accurate and to keep themselves safe on the job. Finding the best school for medical technologists is a multi-step process that examines accreditation, degree and course offerings, specialty options, resources including faculty and staff, location, cost and reviews.
By far, the most important step in choosing the best school for medical technologists is to check the institution's accreditation. Accreditation means the school has met the minimum standards required for medical technology and that the content and equipment is up-to-date. In the US, three major organizations provide accreditation, including the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Services (ABHES), Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Lab Services (NAACLS).
Once accreditation is verified, look at the individual degrees offered by the school for medical technologists. It is possible to enter the medical technology field with a degree in either medical technology or life science, but if a person opts for the life science degree, she must pursue additional training before she can qualify for certification as a technologist. Regardless of what route is available, check that the degree is a bachelor's degree containing one full year of rotations, as not all accredited institutions offer four-year clinical laboratory programs. Medical technologists need more education than medical technicians, who usually study for two years for technician certification or an associate's degree. The additional education obtained through the bachelor's degree, in addition to experience, is why technologists are considered higher-level lab specialists compared to technicians.
After limiting the school search to only schools with four-year programs, medical technologists should evaluate the number of specialties available. Specialization is by no means a requirement for medical technologists, but as in any industry, the additional certifications that come with specialization can separate otherwise equally-qualified candidates during the hiring process. Some examples of specialty areas include mycology, immunology, hematology, urinalysis and virology.
Next, check the resources available. For instance, see what lab equipment is available and when. Keep in mind that staff and faculty are resources, too. In general, the more specialties the school for medical technologists offers, the more staff and faculty are on the payroll to help. Evaluate each school's teacher-to-student ratio during this process, because a large number of staff and faculty doesn't necessarily mean those staff and faculty have huge amounts of time.
When looking at resources, check the individual course options. Some basic courses offered by a school for medical technologists can be completed online, which might give the aspiring technologist greater schedule flexibility. Check whether each course is available each semester, as this can help keep a student from getting behind a full year should she need to take time off or fail a class. Look at the affiliations the school for medical technologists has, as well. This can show where rotations must occur or how much financial support the school currently has.
With a pared-down list of schools for medical technologists, separate the list into ones that are in-state and ones that are out-of-state. Schools in all areas of the country have quality programs, but going to an out-of-state facility usually is more expensive. The same is true of private facilities.
Lastly, schedule a visit to the school and talk with staff, faculty and students to get a sense of the atmosphere. Visit the labs to verify equipment availability and standards. If all checks out and reviews from interviews are good, it's time to apply.
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