What Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians Do
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
Many clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work in hospitals. Others work in medical and diagnostic laboratories or doctors’ offices.
How to Become a Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician
Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Technicians usually need an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.
The median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians was $53,120 in May 2019.
Overall employment of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. An increase in the aging population is expected to lead to a greater need to diagnose medical conditions, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, through laboratory procedures.
Clinical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and clinical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians typically do the following:
- Analyze body fluids, such as blood, urine, and tissue samples, and record normal or abnormal findings
- Study blood samples for use in transfusions by identifying the number of cells, the cell morphology or the blood group, blood type, and compatibility with other blood types
- Operate sophisticated laboratory equipment, such as microscopes and cell counters
- Use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests at the same time
- Log data from medical tests and enter results into a patient’s medical record
- Discuss results and findings of laboratory tests and procedures with physicians
Both technicians and technologists perform tests and procedures that physicians and surgeons or other healthcare personnel order. However, technologists perform more complex tests and laboratory procedures than technicians do. For example, technologists may prepare specimens and perform detailed manual tests, whereas technicians perform routine tests that may be more automated. Clinical laboratory technicians usually work under the general supervision of clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers.
Technologists in small laboratories perform many types of tests; in large laboratories, they sometimes specialize. The following are examples of types of specialized clinical laboratory technologists:
Blood bank technologists, or immunohematology technologists, collect blood, classify it by type, and prepare blood and its components for transfusions.
Clinical chemistry technologists prepare specimens and analyze the chemical and hormonal contents of body fluids.
Cytotechnologists prepare slides of body cells and examine these cells under a microscope for abnormalities that may signal the beginning of a cancerous growth.
Immunology technologists examine elements of the human immune system and its response to foreign bodies.
Microbiology technologists examine and identify bacteria and other microorganisms.
Molecular biology technologists perform complex protein and nucleic acid tests on cell samples.
Like technologists, clinical laboratory technicians may work in several areas of the laboratory or specialize in one area. For example, histotechnicians are a type of clinical laboratory technician who cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists— doctors who study the cause and development of diseases at a microscopic level.
Technologists and technicians often specialize after they have worked in a particular area for a long time or have received advanced education or training in that area.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians held about 337,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians were as follows:
|General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private||47%|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||20|
|Offices of physicians||9|
|Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||6|
|Outpatient care centers||3|
Clinical laboratory personnel are trained to work with infectious specimens or with materials that are caustic or produce fumes. When they follow proper methods to control infection and sterilize equipment, the risk decreases. They wear protective masks, gloves, and goggles for their safety.
Technologists and technicians can be on their feet for long periods, and they may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples.
Injuries and Illnesses
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians risk injury or illness on the job. For example, they may be subject to repetitive motion injuries because they do the same tasks repeatedly.
Most clinical laboratory technologists and technicians work full time. Technologists and technicians who work in facilities that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and some independent laboratories, may work evening, weekend, or overnight hours.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.
For more information about clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, visit
American Society of Cytopathology
For a list of accredited and approved educational programs for medical laboratory personnel, visit
For information on certification, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm (visited ).