Lab technologists do more than peer into a microscope all day. They assist doctors and medical personnel in diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions and also collect and study all types of bodily fluids, cells and tissue samples. It is one of the few science fields where women fill a majority of the positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72 percent of lab technologists were women as of 2012. While not required by all employers, certification as a lab technologist gives the employee a leg up in the industry.
Lab technologists work in a variety of different settings. Some opt to concentrate in a particular specialty like dental labs or animal labs, or focus on a specific science discipline such as biology or chemistry. A lab tech can earn a general certification as a medical technologist from industry associations like the American Medical Technologists. Certifications are also available in specialties such as the Laboratory Animal Technologist designation from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. In addition, the American Society for Clinical Pathology sponsors specialty certifications in chemistry, cytogenetics, cytotechnology, hematology, histotechnology, microbiology and molecular biology.
Candidates must meet each provider’s eligibility requirements to earn certification. Requirements might include completing a medical laboratory technician education program or earning a degree in medical laboratory technology. Some providers let candidates substitute real-world professional experience with a formal education in laboratory technology, while others want a combination of education and experience to earn certification. Each program includes an application process where the applicant submits documentation of education or experience, as well as transcripts, letters of recommendation and other personal information.
A certification exam is a major part of most certification programs. The exam tests the candidate’s knowledge and skills to assure she is prepared for the job duties of a lab technologist. Typically, certification providers give the exams online or proctor the test through a third-party on-site testing facility. Most include study materials, practice tests and training manuals as part of the application and exam fee to prepare students for the tests. Most exams have a time limit. Those who take the text typically get results immediately following the exam.
Earning certification is not a one-time deal. Most providers require lab techs to renew or re-certify, typically every one to three years. The AMT, for example, mandates that lab techs pay a renewal fee every year and complete a certain number of continuing education courses every three years. CE credits come from traditional classes; authoring peer-reviewed journals or textbooks; dissertations or thesis projects; giving speeches or presentations; serving on an industry-related committees; and attending industry workshops, conferences and seminars.
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