Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the United States. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that healthcare jobs are expected to increase 15% between 2019 and 2029 – much faster than the average rate of growth for all other fields. This comes as no surprise. The Brookings Institute found that healthcare spending has nearly quadrupled since 1980, underlining the growing need for healthcare professionals. Healthcare is most certainly a flourishing and necessary industry.
Among the careers in healthcare that are expected to grow is medical laboratory science, which aids in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. This clinical field is vital to the functioning of the healthcare system, and for the right people, can be highly rewarding. If you’re wondering how to become a medical laboratory scientist and what a medical laboratory scientist does, read on!
Medical Laboratory Scientist Responsibilities and Work Environment
A medical laboratory scientist (MLS) utilizes laboratory equipment to analyze specimens, conduct research, help diagnose diseases, and provide doctors with the information they’ll need to provide effective patient care. In fact, up to 70% of a doctor’s medical decisions can rely on the results of a laboratory test, and therefore the work of a medical laboratory scientist.
Medical laboratory scientists analyze a variety of patient samples, including blood, bodily fluids, cells, and tissues. MLS professionals, therefore, must be highly detail-oriented, possess manual dexterity, understand sophisticated equipment, and be excellent problem solvers. Medical laboratory scientists may also be in charge of managing medical technicians who will assist them in their work, which requires leadership skills. Lab scientists may work generally or specialize in specific testing areas, such as blood banking, molecular biology, or pathology.
Medical laboratory scientists can work in a variety of medical environments, too. This can include hospitals, private laboratories, outpatient care centers, colleges, medical offices, and inpatient care facilities. They may be asked to work odd hours, different shifts, or to be on-call. In addition to their everyday laboratory work, they may also collect samples from patients directly. If medical laboratory scientists wish to work in a slower paced environment, they can also choose to work in research and reference labs. No matter the environment, however, medical laboratory science is detailed and important work. Therefore, you must have the right skills and knowledge base to be successful. This comes from an educational program.
Medical Laboratory Scientist Education Requirements
To become a medical laboratory scientist today, you must complete a bachelor’s degree. Your bachelor’s degree should be earned from an academic institution that is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Students must complete general education requirements in addition to science foundation courses, such as physiology, organic chemistry, and anatomy. Additionally, students in a Medical Laboratory Science program must take courses specific to their degree. These courses may include:
- Medical Bacteriology
- Molecular Biology
In addition to completing their dedicated coursework, students in a Medical Laboratory Science degree program must complete a comprehensive exam and two semesters in clinical rotations.
Medical Laboratory Scientist Licensing Requirements
Upon graduation, MLS students should sit for their national certification examination. This certification exam is offered by the Board of Certification of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), and is recognized across the states. The ASCP offers exams for both generalist medical laboratory scientists and for specific, categorical areas. Although not all employers require certification in order to apply for positions, many prefer to hire certified medical laboratory scientists. Professional certification underlines competency and dedication to the field. Today, state licensure is required in 11 states, including California, New York, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico. The ASCP also offers examinations for these state licensures.
Medical Laboratory Scientist Job Outlook and Earning Potential
Employment of MLS professionals is expected to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the national average. As the U.S. population ages, there will be a growing need for medical laboratory scientists who can help in testing for medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes. Additionally, it has become more and more common for future mothers to engage in prenatal testing in order to screen for genetic disorders and conditions. Job opportunities will be particularly robust for clinical laboratory workers who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree and have received their professional certification. According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for medical laboratory scientists is $58,240 per year. In Connecticut, however, these professionals make upwards of $69,000 annually, according to the BLS.
Medical laboratory scientists perform critical tasks that are crucial to the well-being of patients. Without laboratory scientists, doctors aren’t able to quickly diagnose patients or provide effective care. As the need for lab testing increases, medical lab scientists will continue to be in demand, making this career a wonderful choice for students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare that is as stimulating as it is rewarding.
Interested in becoming a medical laboratory scientist in Connecticut? Ask for more information about University of Bridgeport’s program here!