Phlebotomy can be what you make of it -- an entry-level job that gets your foot in the door of a health care career or a position you stay in for many years. If you want to advance in the role, you need some specific career goals and strategies to attain them. These could include certification, specialty practice, becoming a manager or moving into more advanced roles such as a clinical laboratory technician or technologist.
Start With Certification
A high school diploma and on-the-job training is all you need to get started in this occupation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Once you’ve got the basics down, you might want to become certified. In most states, certification is optional, but in California, Nevada and Louisiana, certification is required, according to the BLS. To become certified, you must have graduated from an accredited phlebotomy program, or have at least 1,040 hours of acceptable work experience within the three years prior to your application. You must submit proof that you have completed 50 successful venipunctures and 25 successful capillary punctures. Pass the certification exam, and you’re set.
Make It Special
Drawing blood is not just a matter of one size fits all. It’s much more difficult to draw blood from children and infants, for example, especially premature infants. Although it’s not a formal specialization, some phlebotomists become very adept at such procedures. Others choose to work in a blood bank, where they not only perform venipunctures but manage the collection of blood, serum and other blood components such as platelets from donor patients. The skills needed in a blood bank are different than those used in a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office and are typically learned on the job.
Climbing the Management Ladder
In some organizations, phlebotomists are supervised by clinical laboratory technicians or technologists, or by registered nurses. In others, they report to a senior phlebotomist. If management is your goal, you’ll need to demonstrate training and experience in that area. Even if your state doesn’t require certification, it’s a signal that you’re willing to go the extra mile to prove your competence and knowledge, so that might be your first step to getting into management. Some college courses or online training in supervision and personnel management are another way to demonstrate your willingness to step up to the plate.
For some phlebotomists, the job is a starting point, but the ultimate goal is to move up into a position as a clinical laboratory technician or technologist. If you’re one of those who plan to climb the ladder, check the requirements in your state. The BLS notes that a post-secondary certificate might be all you need to become a technician, although in some states, an associate degree will be the minimum educational requirement. Lab technologists usually need a bachelor’s degree. You also may need to become licensed, and some states or employers require certification as well. There's a dramatic difference in salaries -- phlebotomists earned an average annual salary of $30,910 in 2012, while lab technicians earned $39,340 and lab technologists earned $58,640.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Phlebotomists
- Explore Health Careers: Phlebotomist
- American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians: Welcome to the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
- National Center for Competency Testing: Specialty Certificate Courses
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.