Become a Clinical Laboratory Scientist

Clinical laboratory scientists play a crucial role in the health care industry, especially in the present milieu. Even as the number of diagnostic methods and treatment avenues expand, health care institutions are looking for opportunities to cut costs and pare down staffs. Finding educated workers with multiple skills will become an important task for hospital administrators and other health care employers. Clinical laboratory scientists examine biological materials in labs to diagnose illness and test for disease. Job opportunities are excellent in the field and should stay that way for at least the next decade. This is just one reason to become a clinical laboratory scientist.

Clinical laboratory scientists test bodily fluids, blood, skin cells, and other biological material collected by medical professionals. Analysis may be as simple as observing matter under a microscope or as complicated as performing a computer analysis. More and more laboratory instruments are computer run, meaning that clinical laboratory scientists must be trained on the latest equipment. Their job is much more about analysis and diagnosis than in the past, when tests were conducted manually. Hours tend to be very regular and the environment is professional. The lack of need for patient care and interaction makes this job suited for people who are self-directed. If you want to work in the field of health care but are not a “people person,” this may be the job for you.

Clinical laboratory scientists are employed in hospitals and private medical practices as well as private and public clinical laboratories. There is work in blood banks and other stores of biological material. There is work available at pharmaceutical companies and for government regulatory agencies. The list is long and diverse. Knowing what kind of employer that you are targeting will be useful when pursuing an education. According to the latest findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which studies employment and compensation in the American populace, salaries for clinical laboratory scientists are above average. While the median average annual wage is $36,280, salaries among the highest paid workers regularly top $50,000 annually. This compensation must be compared with educational requirements of becoming a clinical laboratory scientist but the educational investment that should pay off in the long run.

Many professionals working as clinical laboratory scientists have gained a bachelor’s degree in the discipline. The major is offered at many universities. Another option is to attend a program at a teaching hospital. Students will study general science, especially biology, genetics, anatomy, and physiology. There will be coursework in microbiology and immunology. Many classes will focus on diagnostic imaging, examining the different methods scientists use to examine the inner workings of bodies and cells. Classes will include lectures and practical clinical courses. There are advantages to specializing in a particular kind of clinical laboratory science like immunology or cytotechnology. Specializing has been shown to increase earnings potential over a career.

Beyond a degree, job training is especially important in achieving employment and success. Hospitals and other employers have their own rules and procedures that need to be learned and practiced. Taking an internship is a good way to get noticed by a prospective employer. There are also professional associations for clinical laboratory scientists who offer members continuing education, networking opportunities, and even scholarships. Once you have become a clinical laboratory scientist, there are many venues for advancement. Administration is one path that can lead to higher salaries and increased responsibilities. Adding degrees and certificates can lead to specialization or further movement up the career ladder.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014