Am I suited to working in a medical laboratory?

September 23, 2016


Whether it’s cancer or an infection, often medical laboratory tests help doctors make a diagnosis so treatment can get started. Although doctors order the test, they are not the ones who carry out the procedure. Instead, medical laboratory professionals are on the job. Medical lab professionals may obtain, prepare and analysis samples, such as blood, urine, and tissue to help doctors diagnose a patient’s condition.

Options in medical laboratory work

Working in a medical laboratory might be a good career option for students who want to combine science and the medical field. But how do you know if you’re suited for a career working in a medical laboratory?

The first step is to understand what your options are. Not all medical laboratory workers do the same thing. In fact, there are several different jobs to consider including the following:


Phlebotomists perform blood draws in hospitals, clinics and blood donation centers. They may also prepare samples for analysis. Most medical laboratory jobs don’t involve direct patient care. But phlebotomists work directly with patients.

Medical Lab Technician

Medical lab techs perform routine tests on samples including blood and tissue. They do not usually have direct interaction with patients. Most medical lab tech programs are two years and lead to an associate degree.

Medical Technologists

Medical technologists do work similar to technicians, but the tests they perform are often more complex. Technologists also often supervise lab staff. Medical technologists are usually required to complete a bachelor’s degree program in medical technology.


Cytotechnologists also work in medical labs. They analyze cells under a microscope to detect abnormalities. The cells may come from anywhere in the body including the lungs, digestive tract or skin. Cytotechnologists are required to have a bachelor’s degree and earn a certification.

What’s it like to work in a medical laboratory

Before you decide if medical laboratory work is a good fit, it’s helpful to learn more about what the work involves. Although the specific duties of each job may vary, there are some similarities. Medical laboratory workers usually work in hospitals and outpatient labs. Some medical techs specialize and narrow their focus and work in positions including blood bank technologists and molecular techs.

Technicians, technologists, and cytotechnologists spend a large part of their workday preparing samples, operating specialized equipment and using a microscope. Laboratory workers need a variety of skills including computer skills, manual dexterity and attention to detail.

Salaries for medical laboratory workers vary by positions. In general, the more training and education required, the higher the salary. For example, phlebotomists typically earn less than medical technologists.

The working environment is similar for most laboratory workers. Both full-time and part-time jobs are available. Medical lab workers who are employed by healthcare facilities that operate around the clock may have to work overnight shifts.

Except for phlebotomists, most medical laboratory positions do not involve direct patient contact. So if you’re someone who wants to work in medicine but does not want to provide direct patient care, medical lab work may be a good fit.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.