Blending a love for the scientific process with their desire to help others, medical laboratory technicians play an important role in diagnosing diseases and infections. Laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to discover any irregularities. These tests are typically ordered by a physician, and the samples provided may include bodily fluids and tissue samples. A medical laboratory technician analyzes these samples, records their observations, and informs the doctor of the test results.
Most medical laboratory technicians work in a hospital or clinic environment. However, a laboratory technician may also find employment in diagnostic laboratories, universities, or professional schools. Online laboratory technician degree programs can help prepare students with the knowledge needed to pass licensure examinations required by their state. These programs also train students with the practical skills needed to succeed in entry-level positions. Students can expect to take courses in a number of different scientific disciplines, including chemistry, biology, microbiology, biochemistry, math, and statistics.
How to Choose the Right Laboratory Technician Degree
Prospective students should exhibit an interest in the scientific process as well as health-related topics. Individuals interested in becoming a medical laboratory technician will need to earn an associate or bachelor's degree as a prerequisite to licensure and employment. Entrance into these degree programs typically requires students to first earn a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Online laboratory technician degree programs help prepare students to obtain entry-level employment as a laboratory technician. While medical laboratory technicians and medical laboratory technologists perform many of the same duties, becoming a technologist generally requires more schooling than it takes to earn the technician label. Lab management positions are usually reserved for those holding at least a bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science.
The chart below details some of the different medical laboratory technology degrees available, as well as anticipated program lengths and potential careers for each:
Length of Completion
Certificate in Phlebotomy
Certificate programs typically take less than one year of full-time study to complete and result in a non-degree certificate.
Associate in Medical Laboratory Technology
These programs generally take up to two year of full-time study to complete.
Medical Laboratory Technician, Chemical Technician
Bachelor's in Medical Laboratory Science
These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.
Medical Laboratory Technologist, Biological Technician
Master's in Laboratory Medicine
These programs take up to two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.
Medical Laboratory Technologist, Natural Sciences Manager (Laboratory Manager)
Ph.D. in Medical Sciences
These programs take an additional four years+ of study after completion of a bachelor's degree or two to four years+ after completion of a master's.
Students whose goal is to become a laboratory technician can typically find entry-level employment after completing a two-year associate degree program. To advance into management positions, candidates are often required to hold a bachelor's degree or higher. Those interested in research fields are usually required to earn graduate-level degrees. Because different types of degrees require different amounts of schooling, students should make sure the program they select aligns with their ideal career scenario. Additionally, laboratory technicians may need to obtain licensure from the state in which they intend to practice.
What to Expect in a Laboratory Technician Program
Students enrolled in online laboratory technician degree programs can expect to gain the knowledge and technical skills needed to obtain entry-level employment as a laboratory technician. While the curriculum will vary by degree level and institution, students enrolled in these programs typically complete many of the same core courses, including:
- Intro to Biology
- Medical Microbiology
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Intro to General Chemistry
- Fundamentals of Biochemistry
- Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry
- Medical Chemistry
- Medical Virology
- Intro to Clinical Immunology
- Interpersonal Communications
- Advanced Algebra
Like traditional on-campus programs, online laboratory technician degree programs often require students to successfully complete a clinical practicum to graduate. These practicums are completed under the direct supervision of medical laboratory professionals at local hospitals, clinics, or labs. Students use this time to acquire the valuable hands-on training necessary to become successful laboratory technicians. Additionally, students may meet valuable professional contacts who can help them find work after college.
Laboratory Technician Degree Specializations
While becoming a lab technician is one potential career outcome of these programs, students may wish to specialize in other related fields. Depending on the type of degree being earned, specializations can include:
- Medical Laboratory Technology
- Medical Laboratory Research
- Laboratory Management and Administration
- Global Health Consulting
In order for graduates to specialize within certain areas of the field, they must first attain the level of education required for the position. Prior to enrolling in a degree program, students should first consider their ultimate career goals. For instance, if they wish to complete medical laboratory research projects, students should select the degree programs that would best allow them to pursue those passions.
Benefits of an Online Laboratory Technician Degree Program
As with most health-related degree programs, students are required to demonstrate a satisfactory level of academic knowledge in their specialty. Once they understand these basic concepts, students can then apply them in a hands-on, practical setting. Online laboratory technician degree programs are a great way to obtain a solid academic foundation before applying that knowledge in the field.
Students enrolling in online laboratory technician degree programs study scientific concepts and theories using online lectures and materials. Upon completion of this work, students are typically required to partake in clinical practicums at local hospitals or labs, providing them with valuable real world experience they can use in their future careers.
Communicating with classmates and professors is done through video chat, email, or message boards. One of the key benefits to online learning is the flexibility it provides. The nature of online education allows these programs to be far more flexible than traditional campus-based ones. Since lectures and coursework are completed online, students can design a study schedule around any work or family commitments that they already have.
Careers in Laboratory Science
Individuals wanting to become a laboratory technician may find themselves considering career options in other closely related fields. The following chart details some of these fields, along with relevant wage and employment data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Expected Job Growth
(2014 - 2024)
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians||160,190||$41,700||14%|
|Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians||326,920||$52,280||12.7%|
|Natural Sciences Managers||54,780||$136,150||9.9%|
Online laboratory technician degree programs may be used to prepare for a career as a lab technician, or as a stepping stone to a bachelor's or graduate-level degree. Students interested in this field should carefully consider their career options before committing to a degree program. Although entry-level positions for laboratory technicians often require just an associate degree, management and research positions typically require higher levels of education.
To learn more about becoming a medical laboratory technician, request information from any of the schools listed below.
Biological Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biological-technicians.htm
Chemical Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/chemical-technicians.htm
May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm
Medical Scientists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/medical-scientists.htm
Natural Sciences Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/natural-sciences-managers.htm
Phlebotomists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm