Lab Techs Vs. Nurses

Lab technicians work and closely analyze test results.
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Lab techs and nurses both work in health care and medical settings. In most states, these occupations are governed by each state’s board or its department of health. Laboratory personnel and nurses must obtain accredited training and a license or certification to practice professionally. Although both of these professionals work in a medical setting to assist patients, their roles are very different.

Lab Techs

    Laboratory technicians collect and test a variety of medical samples such as blood, body fluids and tissues. After analyzing test results, they keep detailed records and discuss the results with the physicians who requested the testing. Some laboratory technicians work in blood banks to collect blood and prepare blood and plasma for transfusions. These professionals obtain a certification from an accredited training program or pursue a degree to work in this field.


    Nurses provide direct patient care at several levels. Licensed practical or vocational nurses provide basic bedside care to patients. Registered nurses perform more complicated tasks, such as preparing patient care plans, working with laboratory technicians to analyze test results and monitoring patients to ensure their recovery. Licensed practical and vocational nurses obtain about one year of training from an accredited program. Registered nurses obtain at least an associate’s degree, and often a bachelor's degree, in nursing before being qualified to take a licensing exam.

Career Outlook

    Job opportunities for lab techs and nurses are expected to increase between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians are expected to increase by 15 percent during that time. Licensed practical and vocational nurses are expected to increase 22 percent, while registered nurse occupations are expected to increase 26 percent from 2010 to 2020. Technological advances in laboratory tests and procedures will allow health care providers to diagnose and treat patients more effectively, increasing the need for lab techs. An aging population will also contribute to the need for more health care workers, such as lab techs and nurses at all levels.


    The American Society for Clinical Pathology estimated an average salary ranging from $14.52 to $31.14 per hour, depending on the technician’s specialty area, in 2010 for laboratory technicians. The lowest salary was for phlebotomy technicians who collect blood specimens. The highest salary was for cytotechnologists who prepare and examine body cells to find abnormalities. The BLS estimated an average salary of $20.21 per hour for licensed vocational and practical nurses in 2011. Registered nurses earned an average salary of $69,110 per year.

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