If you want to work in the rapidly growing healthcare field, a good potential career choice is medical technology. Medical technologists are a type of medical practitioner who help doctors and other medical professionals to diagnose and treat diseases and infections.
By earning a degree in a branch of medical technology, you will hone the skills needed to use complex medical equipment that is used to diagnose patients in doctor offices, hospitals and other types of medical facilities.
Earning an associate’s undergraduate or graduate degree in medical technology is a great way to qualify for many good paying jobs in healthcare. Some professionals who are interested in this career earn their associate’s degree, gain two or three years of work experience, and then move on to their bachelor’s or master’s degree. In some cases, your employer may even pay for much of your advanced degree.
Before you decide to embark upon a medical technology career, it is important to understand what medical technologists do.
What a Medical Technologist Does
Note that the term ‘medical technologist’ covers many medical professions, but the main type the term refers to has to do with medical laboratory technologists and technicians. These professionals also may be called medical laboratory scientists.
Medical technologist work usually focuses on collecting bodily fluids or tissues from patients, and then performing many types of tests on the samples. Then, they record what has been found and give the information to the supervising physician who ordered the tests.
Some of the specific duties of these medical professionals include:
- Conduct analysis of blood, urine and tissue samples, and record any findings.
- Study blood samples that will be used in blood transfusions to determine blood type, blood group and the cell morphology.
- Use equipment and instruments to perform a variety of blood tests at the same time
- Record data from the medical tests and enter the results in the medical record
- Discuss lab test results and findings with doctors
Medical technologists do tests and procedures that doctors and other healthcare professionals order. Some medical technologists will perform more complex tests than regular technicians do. A technologist will often have to prepare specimens and perform detailed, manual tests.
Where a Medical Technologist Works
Medical technologists may work in small or large laboratories. Some may specialize in doing specific types of tests, and others may have more general lab testing duties. Some of the most common types of specialized laboratory technologists include the following; each of these different types of technologist job will usually work in a different type of company or environment:
- Blood bank technologist: Collect blood and classify it by each type; prepare the blood for transfusions
- Clinical chemistry technologist: Prepare samples and analyze the hormonal and chemical contents of various bodily fluids.
- Cytotechnologist: Prepare the slides of cells of the body and look at the cells with a microscope for anything that is abnormal.
- Immunology technologist: Look at various elements of the immune system and how it responds to foreign bodies.
- Microbiology technologist: Look at and identify bacteria and various other microorganisms.
Licensing and Certification
Many states require all laboratory personnel to have a license. This will vary based upon your state and your exact medical specialty. You should contact your state department of health to determine if you need to have a license for your speciality in your state. You also may visit The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.
You also have the option of obtaining a general certification to show that you have the advanced skills of a medical laboratory technologist. Or, you can get a specific certification for a certain type of medical technologist, such as medical biology or cytotechnology. For more information, you can visit the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
Types of Degrees in Medical Technology
You can earn various degrees in medical technology, depending upon your interests and the level of education you want.
Associate’s Degree in Medical Technology
An associate’s degree in medical technology will ready you for an entry level position as a medical laboratory technician. You will learn about clinical microbiology, anatomy, chemistry and biochemistry. Other classes often include:
- Computer science
- Health technology
- Organic chemistry
Many entry level medical technologists earn an Associate of ARts in Medical Laboratory Technology. This is a two year program that will teach you how to perform a variety of basic clinical tasks. For example, you will learn how to collect and analyze bodily fluid, and also obtain blood cell specimens for testing.
Associate degree programs in this field are available in person at various community and technical colleges across the country. You should ensure that the program has been accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
Bachelor’s in Medical Technology
A bachelor’s degree in medical technology will teach you how to perform sophisticated laboratory tests with advanced instruments and computers. You also will learn how keep this equipment in good condition, as it has to be kept in top condition so that it gives accurate test results.
The volume and the degree of sophistication of lab tests is growing rapidly, so it is important to obtain a bachelor’s degree in this field so that you can perform the more advanced tests.
A bachelor’s program to consider is the Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science from Ferris State University. This program has been fully accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
In this four year program, you will learn how to perform and interpret many different laboratory tests from samples that have been collected by phlebotomists. You will learn how to give blood products for people who need blood transfusions, and how to determine which bacteria is causing an infection.
This degree program also will teach you to identify the types of blood cells that are causing leukemia, and how to measure various chemicals in the blood, such as drugs, hormones and cholesterol.
Required courses include:
- Medical Microbiology
- General Microbiology
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Introduction to General Chemistry
- Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry
Master’s in Medical Technology
If you have already worked as a medical technologist and are certified, you may desire to advance your training beyond the undergraduate level. If so, you may want to consider the online Master of Laboratory Science degree that is offered by the University of Southern Mississippi.
The coursework in this two year, online program consists of 18 credit hours, and you must pass both oral and written examinations. You may transfer six hours from another university to earn this master’s degree.
You are required to take these courses:
- Comparative Diagnosis of Microbial Pathogens
- Clinical Oncology
- Professional Development for Medical Laboratory Scientist
- Special Problems
- Environmental Health
- Infectious Disease Epidemiology
- Lean Production System
- Instructional Design and Development
If you are interested in a degree in medical technology, you will be making a substantial time and monetary investment. You will want to ensure that your program has been properly accredited.
You should check if your degree program has been accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science. If you see that it is so accredited, you know that the degree you earn will be seen with high value by potential employers.