A few days after she goes in for a routine pap smear, a woman gets a call from her doctor that her tests came back abnormal. The diagnosis is not good, but thanks to the work of a cytotechnologist, early detection gives the woman a fighting chance to beat the cancer. Cytotechnologists examine cells from the human body to find cancer and other diseases. They work closely with pathologists to determine the cause of the disease and the proper treatment plan for each patient. In addition to specialized training, many cytotechnologists opt to obtain certification.
American Society for Clinical Pathology
The American Society for Clinical Pathology's Board of Registry is the only organization currently offering cytotechnologist certification.It oversees the certification process. The American Society of Cytopathology works with the ASCP to accredit educational programs for cytotechnologists and prepares them for the national ASCP certification exam. The ASCP certification for cytotechnologists shows potential employers they have attained the knowledge, education and training necessary to perform entry-level cytopathology duties.
To earn the CT(ASCP) designation, applicants must fulfill certain eligibility requirements that include earning a four-year bachelor's degree. The bachelor's degree must include 20 semester hours of biological science and eight semester hours of chemistry. She must also complete a one-year degree program in cytotechnology from a school or program accredited by the ASC and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Once an applicant has met the eligibility requirements, she may apply for the certification exam, which includes submitting official documentation of educational experience and paying an application fee.
Once the ASCP approves a cytotechnologist’s application, she schedules her certification exam. All exams take place at Pearson Vue computer-testing centers, which are located throughout the country, making it convenient for an applicant to choose a center close to where she lives. The ASCP provides numerous study materials to help students prepare for the exam, including online study guides, practice tests, reading lists and exam guidelines. The certification exam consists of 100 questions and test-takers have up to two-and-a-half hours to complete it. A passing or failing grade is given immediately after the test.
A cytotechnologist must renew her designation every three years by taking part in the ASCP’s Certification Maintenance Program. It mandates that cytotechnologists earn at least 36 continuing education points in the three years between each renewal. Of the 36 points, at least one point must be in laboratory or patient safety, two must be cytopathology-specific and the remaining 33 can be in any pathology or laboratory discipline. One hour of continuing education classes equals one point. Points are earned through formal classes, employer-sponsored courses, conferences, workshops, research projects and serving with professional industry associations.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Cytotechnologists
- American Society of Cytopathology: Certification
- American Society for Clinical Pathology: Cytotechnologist Certification
- American Society for Clinical Pathology: Exam Prep
- American Society for Clinical Pathology: Cytotechnologist
- University of North Dakota: Cytotechnology Program
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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