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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Medical Technologist
How many years does it take to train to become a Certified Medical Laboratory Scientist?
Usually, to become certified as a medical laboratory scientist by the ASCP (American Society of Clinical Pathologists), you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree (4 year) in a certified medical laboratory science program. This will include both academic (classroom) and internship (clinical training). After completing from an authorized program, you will be qualified to take the national certification board, administered by the ASCP. After passing this test, you are awarded the title of Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) and may be allowed to work as such. All this training time will take about 4 years, depending on the courses you have or have not already taken.
What kind of income can I expect as a medical laboratory scientist?
Income depends on a series of factors. A major factor that will determine your income is the geographic area in which you will be working. The highest earning incomes are found in places with a higher cost of living (eg, California, New York). On average, the annual income of a general medical laboratory scientist is around $68,000.
An additional factor that may be overlooked is the volume of job opportunities available. There continues to be a shortage of laboratory professionals across the country. Becoming a medical laboratory scientist will certainly allow you to be flexible in choosing where you want to develop your career.
What are the typical working hours of a medical laboratory scientist?
Working hours are specific to each lab. Typically, however, most hospital labs rotate their lab professionals around three 8-hour shifts: morning, evening, and night. Other labs may have their lab workers work 12-hour shifts, split into days and nights. Most of the time, unless you are going to be in supervisory or managerial positions, medical laboratory scientists are NEVER on call and will rarely have the opportunity to come into the lab outside of scheduled working hours.
Is there a long-term prospective space for me to grow in this area?
Most definitely YES! For many people who entered this profession, being a medical laboratory scientist or medical technologist was a great start to introducing them to the medical field. After graduating from a medical laboratory science program, you will typically start as a generalist in the laboratory. You will be responsible for performing simple tests and diagnostics in all departments: hematology, chemistry, blood bank and microbiology.
After gaining experience as a general practitioner, you may choose to further your profession in laboratory medicine by focusing on a specific area. The American Society of Clinical Pathologists has specific certificates for healthcare professionals who choose to specialize in a particular area (eg, clinical chemistry, blood banking, etc.). Being a certified expert in a particular field will usually allow you to hold higher positions such as division supervisor. It will also increase the chances of working in reference laboratories and research facilities.
Last but not least, many medical laboratory scientists eventually decide that they may want to advance their studies and continue their involvement in the health field. This profession offers the perfect springboard for people who want to pursue a career in medicine, dentistry, medical assistant, etc. Unlike many other undergraduate degrees in the biomedical field, this degree ensures that you could have a professional career in case you do not want to immediately pursue more advanced degrees. Many MLS graduates work for a few years and earn countless clinical hours, before returning to school to advance their studies.
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