Medical lab technicians may work behind the scenes, but they are key players on a patient’s medical team. Their job is to run tests that will confirm a doctor’s suspected diagnosis or tell him he needs to consider other diagnoses.
Lab techs run tests ordered by doctors in order to diagnose a patient’s illness. Medical lab technicians must be extremely detail-oriented. If they misinterpret test results even slightly, it could make a difference in the diagnosis and the patient may receive the incorrect treatment. This is a good reason why technicians must work well under pressure. They also need to be able to work under pressure when the lab is busy.
While technicians spend a lot of time peering into microscopes, they also need to have good computer skills because laboratory equipment is becoming more automated.
These technicians, also known as clinical laboratory technicians, examine a person’s body fluids, such as blood or urine, and cells. They are seeking harmful bacteria and microorganisms, which may be making a person ill. Other duties include determining a person’s blood type and then finding a match when transfusions are needed. Technicians also run the same tests after a patient’s treatment has started to determine how well the treatment is working.
A technician in a small laboratory will perform all sorts of tests, while a tech in a large laboratory may specialize in a specific area, such as bacteriology, hematology or immunology. While some medical lab technicians learn while on the job, most employers prefer their technicians to have at least an associate’s degree from a community college or a certificate from a hospital or vocational school.
More than half of medical lab techs in the United States work for hospitals. Others work for laboratory companies or in doctor’s offices. Those who work for hospitals earn slightly more money than those who work at other facilities, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics.
The median wage for lab technicians, regardless of where they worked, was $17.44 per hour in May 2010, while those who worked for hospitals earned an average of $18.71 per hour. The hourly wage for medical lab technicians ranged from $11.64 per hour or $24,210 annually to $24.94 per hour or $56,040 annually. Factors which influence a technician’s salary include experience, place of employment and geographic location.
The federal government says the outlook for employment is good for lab techs, as rapid job growth is expected. Most of these jobs will be in hospital settings.