Medical technologists and technicians are medical practitioners who combine their love of science and helping people to assist physicians with the discovery of disease and infections. After collecting samples of body fluids or tissues from a patient, medical technologists and technicians perform a variety of tests on these specimens. They then record their findings and report them to the physician who ordered the test.
Although a hospital setting is the most common work environment, medical technologists and technicians may find work in diagnostic laboratories, universities, or a private practice. Medical technology degrees can help students gain the practical knowledge and technical skills needed to obtain entry-level employment. Taking courses online allows students seeking a medical technology degree to design their study schedule in a way that fits their already busy life. Medical technology students take classes in a variety of subjects, including biology, general chemistry, genetics, physics, biochemistry and organic chemistry.
Enrolling in an undergraduate medical technology degree program usually does not require anything more than a high school diploma. Graduate-level programs will require a bachelor's degree in medical technology, biology, chemistry, or another related field. Students hoping to work in this field should enjoy working on scientific experiments and have an interest in health-related professions.
Choosing the Right Medical Technology Degree
""Medical technology"" covers a wide range of medical professions, but it usually refers to medical laboratory technologists and technicians, also known as medical laboratory scientists. Students hoping to work in this field have a variety of degree options to choose from, each varying in the level of skill and dedication required. Students should carefully select the medical technology degree that best suits their intended career path, while also considering their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Below are several types of medical technology degrees along with information pertaining to the length of each program and potential career outcomes:
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 Technology
These programs typically take up to two years of full-time study to complete.
Medical Laboratory Technician
Bachelor's in Medical Technology
These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.
Medical Laboratory Technologist, Forensic Science Technician
Master's in Clinical Laboratory Science
These programs take up to two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.
Medical Laboratory Technologist, Forensic Science Technician, Natural Sciences Manager (Laboratory Manager)
MD/PhD in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
These programs take an additional four or more years of study after completion of a bachelor's degree, or at least two to four years after completion of a master's degree.
Medical Scientist, Pathologist
While most graduates with a medical technology degree choose to work in hospital lab environments, these degrees can lead to a number of different occupations in the medical field. Should they wish, students can further their education by pursuing a master's or even doctoral degree. Of course, the amount of time a student spends pursuing a degree should correlate to their particular career ambitions.
What to Expect in a Medical Technology Program
Students pursuing degrees in the medical technology field can expect to become well-versed in all topics relating to life and physical sciences. An interest in biology, chemistry, and genetics is helpful. Potential students should also enjoy performing scientific tests and experiments using lab equipment.
Specific degree specializations may available, and can help students attain the specialized education necessary for certain career paths. This is particularly true at the graduate level. Here are a few of the most common specializations for medical technology degrees:
- Clinical Laboratory Technology
- Clinical Laboratory Research
- Public Health
- Forensic Pathology
Curriculum varies widely by school and degree type. Core courses for an undergraduate medical technology degree may include:
- Intro to Biology
- Intro to General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Fundamentals of Cell Biology
- General Physics
- Fundamentals of Biochemistry
Most related degrees require completion of clinical practicums prior to graduation. Students typically finish the clinical portion of their programs at area hospitals while working under the supervision of a professional medical technologist. For advanced degrees, including MD programs, completion of a 2-year medical residency may be required.
The majority of students who earn a degree in this field choose to work in a hospital or clinical lab setting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical laboratory technicians are generally required to have an associate degree to obtain entry-level employment. A bachelor's degree is typically necessary to work in this capacity. Additionally, graduates may need to pass certain examinations or obtain particular certifications to fulfill state requirements for licensing.
Benefits of an Online Medical Technology Program
Before they can complete their clinical practicums, students must first finish their required classroom coursework. Online degrees in medical technology can provide students with the academic foundation needed to succeed in a practical clinical setting.
While enrolled in an online program, students can participate in lectures and complete coursework from anywhere with an internet connection. Even though the bulk of their studies will occur online, they may still be given the chance to gain valuable hands-on experience by completing clinical practicum assignments at a local hospital. Thus, there is generally very little difference between obtaining a traditional on-campus degree and an online counterpart.
In addition to participating in online coursework and lectures, online students will communicate with their professors and classmates through email, video chat and message boards. Because online programs usually offer round-the-clock access to course materials, these programs tend to be much more flexible than traditional degree programs. Online students can structure their study schedule around their other commitments, a great feature for parents and other working adults.
Medical Technology Careers: Job Growth and Salary Outlook
A degree in medical technology can open a wide range of career options for graduates. These options are highly dependent upon the level of schooling attained, and may require additional training or certifications. In the chart below, you'll find some of the most popular career paths for graduates, along with wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Expected Job Growth
(2014 - 2024)
|Forensic Science Technicians||14,800||$60,690||16.8%|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians||160,190||$41,700||14%|
|Natural Sciences Managers||54,780||$136,150||9.9%|
Degree programs in this discipline can help prepare students for a number of different careers involving medically oriented lab-work. As always, students should educate themselves on all options and take special care to choose the degree program that fits their individual career goals and level of skill.
You can learn more about online degrees in medical technology by clicking on any of the schools listed below.