Are you an analytical person who loves human biology? Are you interested in the detection and diagnosis of diseases? Do you like spending time in a laboratory? If so, being a medical technician may be your ideal career!
Job description: the basics
A medical technician (also called a clinical laboratory technician) is someone who conducts tests to help find, diagnose, and treat diseases. Under the supervision of a medical technologist or laboratory manager, you could work on projects as varied as examining specimens in search of bacteria or parasites, drawing blood samples, and preparing tissue samples for a pathologist.Depending on your interests, you can specialize in one aspect of medical technology (i.e., a phlebotomist works entirely with blood samples), or you may choose to work across several aspects.
As analysts of human blood, cells, fluids, and tissues, medical technicians are an integral part of the system that monitors and improves our health, so it can be an intense job. You should expect to spend a lot of time working on your feet, often under pressure to obtain results.
Because of the delicate nature of the specimens and the need for accuracy, you must have strict attention to detail. You also need to be comfortable with computers and new technology because you are likely to use them often. Depending upon whether your job is in a hospital or a doctor’s office, you may have to work odd hours, or work with dangerous materials such as infections, requiring protective clothing and eyewear.
Becoming a medical technician: education and training
To become a medical technician, you need to obtain an associate degree or a certification from a hospital, a vocational or technical school, or the Army.
If you decide that you want to advance your career, you can get a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or another life science, take a licensing test (requirements for licensing differ depending upon the state) and become a medical technologist. As a medical technologist, you would have the ability to run more complex procedures and tests. You may also be responsible for supervising other technicians or even managing an entire lab.
To move beyond that and become a lab director, you willl likely need a master’s degree or a doctorate, depending upon the lab, its size, and the kinds of tests it conducts.
Salary and career outlook
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, your job outlook is excellent, with many hospitals looking to fill positions in the next few years. You can also find work in a doctor’s office or a medical or diagnostic lab.
As a medical technician, you have the opportunity to help improve others’ health, which makes this a rewarding career.