What are Laboratory Technicians and Technologists?

April 15, 2015

Laboratory technicians and technologists play an important role in diagnosing and patients. Technicians and technologists collect body fluids, tissues and blood samples in order to perform various tests to analyze the substances.

Responsibilities of Laboratory Technicians and Technologists

WorkexperienceatCentralMemorial6.JPGDepending on where they work, technologists and technicians may have similar responsibilities. They analyze tissues, blood and urine to determine any abnormalities. The results may help physicians diagnose various types of conditions, such as infections, cancer and other types of illnesses.

Laboratory technologists and technicians also study blood samples in order to assist in transfusions. For instance, they may perform tests on blood to identify blood cell type and morphology. Technicians also log patient results into their charts and consult with nurses and doctors regarding patient’s tests.

Although both technicians and technologists perform tests on samples, technologists may conduct more complex tests. Technologists may have to follow detailed directions and do tests manually. Technicians are more likely to perform routine tests on samples, which are automated. Technologists may also train and supervise technicians and other lab staff.

Education and Training Needed

The main difference between technologists and technicians is the length of their schooling. Technologists usually must have a bachelor’s degree in laboratory science while technicians are usually only required to have an associate degree.

Educational programs can be found at universities, community colleges and private vocational schools. Students take classes in subjects, such as pathology, microbiology and chemistry. Hands-on experience working in the lab analyzing samples is also usually part of the curriculum. Some states require laboratory technologists to be licensed. State licensure for technologists often involves passing a written exam.

Specializations in Laboratory Science

Some laboratory technologists specialize in one of the following areas:

Cytology:  Cytotechnologists are lab technologists who specialize in preparing slides of body cells and analyzing them for abnormalities.
Microbiology:  Microbiology technologists examine microorganisms, such as bacteria.
Blood Bank Technologists:  Lab technicians who work in a blood bank analyze blood cells for transfusions.

Opportunities and Pay

Technologists and technicians work in a variety of healthcare settings including hospitals, clinics and outpatient labs.  They may also work in community health centers, public health programs, veterinary labs and research laboratories.

The salaries for lab technologists and technicians varies according to their education and experience. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, the average salary for lab technologists was $57,000 a year. The median salary for laboratory technicians in 2012 was $37,000 a year.

Traits Needed

Both laboratory technicians and technologists need to have certain traits in order to increase their chances of success. For instance, technicians need to have physical stamina since they often spend hours on their feet performing various tests. It is also helpful to have good fine motor skills and manual dexterity. The job often involves working with small instruments, needles and specimens.

Being detailed oriented is also an essential trait for technologists and technicians. In many cases, precise instructions must be followed in order to perform a test accurately.



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