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Oswego Career Ladders - Medical Laboratory Technologist and Cyto-Technologists

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Medical Laboratory Technologist and Cyto-Technologists

Industry: Healthcare
Area: Clinical Lab

Clinical laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Clinical/Medical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians perform most of these tests.

Clinical laboratory personnel examine and analyze body fluids, tissues, and cells. They look for bacteria, parasites, and other microorganisms; analyze the chemical content of fluids; match blood for transfusions; and test for drug levels in the blood to show how a patient is responding to treatment. These technologists also prepare specimens for examination, count cells, and look for abnormal cells. They use automated equipment and instruments capable of performing a number of tests simultaneously, as well as microscopes, cell counters, and other sophisticated laboratory equipment. Then they analyze the results and relay them to physicians. With increasing automation and the use of computer technology, the work of technologists and technicians has become less hands-on and more analytical. Technologists evaluate test results and develop and modify programs and procedures. Technicians perform less complex tests and procedures.

Cytotechnologists are specially trained individuals who are responsible for detecting small changes or abnormalities in cells. Their work is critical in the early detection and diagnosis of cancers and other diseases. They examine samples under a microscope, studying the slides for minute abnormalities in a cell's shape, color, or size. These findings are usually the first warning signs of cancer and are used to indicate whether it is benign or malignant. Cytotechnologists usually work under the direction of a clinical pathologist who is responsible for any final diagnosis.

Work Settings

Laboratories usually are well lighted and clean; however, specimens, solutions, and reagents used in the laboratory sometimes produce fumes. Laboratory workersmay spend a great deal of time on their feet. About half of Clinical Laboratory Technologists work in hospitals. Most of the remaining jobs are in medical laboratories or physicians offices and clinics.


Medical and clinical laboratory technicians generally have either an associate degree from a community or junior college or a certificate from a hospital, a vocational or technical school, or one of the U.S. Armed Forces. A few technicians learn their skills on thejob.Technologists generally have a bachelors degree.

Job Outlook

Clinical/medical laboratory technologists and technicians held about 297,000 jobs in 2002. More than half of jobs were in hospitals. Job opportunities are expected to be excellent, because the number of job openings is expected to continue to exceed the number of job seekers.


Median annual earnings of medical and clinical laboratory technologists were $45,730 in May 2004.

Work Schedule

Hours and other working conditions of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians vary with the size and type of employment setting.

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