When you send a sample to a lab for testing and diagnosis, you are putting your trust in the work of a clinical laboratory technologist.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians perform lab tests that are crucial to the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. They look for bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms; analyze the chemical content of fluids; match blood for transfusions; and test for drug levels in blood to see how a patient is responding to treatment. After testing and examining a specimen, they analyze the results and relay them to physicians.
Those with more education and expertise are clinical laboratory technologists -- also called medical technologists. Clinical lab technologists perform complex chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and bacteriological tests. Technologists microscopically examine blood and other body fluids. They make cultures of body fluid and tissue samples to determine the presence of bacteria, fungi, parasites, or other microorganisms. They also analyze samples for chemical content and concentrations of compounds like cholesterol and glucose, and type and cross match blood samples for transfusions.
Some technologists also monitor the work of clinical laboratory technicians. Technicians perform less complex tests than technologists. Technicians may prepare specimens and operate automated analyzers, for example, or they may perform manual tests in accordance with detailed instructions.
Technicians can advance and become technologists through additional education and experience. Technologists may advance to supervisory positions in laboratory work, or may become chief medical or clinical laboratory technologists or laboratory managers in hospitals.
Education & Training
Clinical laboratory technologists are usually required to have a bachelor's degree in medical technology or in one of the life sciences; clinical laboratory technicians usually need an associate degree or a certificate.
A master's degree in medical technology or one of the life sciences may help advancement, and a doctorate is usually needed to become a lab director.
For more information about lab technicians, visit The Bureau of Labor Statistics.