Clinical Lab Technicians: Get Your Degree

What education do I need to get a high-paying clinical lab technician job? Read this guide on clinical lab technicians & how to get your degree today.

Clinical lab technicians, also referred to as medical laboratory science professionals, are professional scientists who study samples of patient-provided biological matter to discover disease and other information located in the samples. Becoming a clinical lab technician requires obtaining a minimum certification-based education. Most employers prefer you earn a minimum of an associate degree before hiring you, however.

How long does it take to finish a clinical lab technician program? Are clinical lab tech certificate/degrees expensive to earn or is financial aid available? Some people want to pursue careers the medical field but prefer to not work directly with patients. What types of job positions are available to someone with a clinical lab technician degree? Graduating from one of the top programs available in 2021 helps you earn a high salary in a vocational field you love. Read ahead for a helpful guide about clinical lab technicians and how to get your degree today.

What Is a Clinical Lab Technician?

Clinical lab technicians are also known by a variety of other relevant titles. Lab techs, laboratory assistants, clinical lab assistants, medical lab technicians and more are all interchangeable monikers for the same job title/description. What exactly does a lab technician do? Some of the duties performed by a clinical lab technician include processing (and analyzing) blood, urine, tissue and cell-matter samples provided by patients. Clinical lab techs do not collect the samples from patients directly, but instead work with the collected matter in isolated laboratories away from all patient activity. 

A primary function of the clinical lab tech is to generate vital data pursuant to the treatment of serious diseases and conditions. More basic duties include processing drug screening panels and basic blood work results for pre-surgery physical examinations. Clinical lab technicians are also required to focus on (and accurately record) a high number of details during frequently high-pressure scenarios.

Online & On-Campus Programs – What to Choose & Why

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of most educational learning environments starting in early 2020. Most colleges were forced to change to virtual online-only classes. As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to be administered and applicable restrictions removed in 2021, many colleges are simultaneously opening their campuses once again. Still, the virtual learning environment is here to stay, which presents you with a potentially interesting enrollment choice. When it comes to online and on-campus programs, what should you choose – and why? 

Online courses essentially offer the same quality education as on-campus classes. Online courses might cost less due to the elimination of commuting or room/board expenses. Hybrid classes are available through certain institutions now as well. Clinical lab tech work requires some hands-on training. It is possible to take some classes online, while taking others on campus. The choice might not be entirely yours, however. Enrollment for on-campus courses is still in flux, and limited in many locations where available. Talk to a representative in the admissions office at your school-of-choice to understand your online and on-campus enrollment options for 2021. 

Clinical Lab Technician Degrees – How Long Does It Take?

The length of time it takes to earn a clinical lab technician degree depends on what type of degree you are pursuing, your specific area (or areas) of specialization and whether your school offers accelerated curriculum programming. Traditional associate degrees require two years of study and each consecutive degree generally requires two additional years to complete. For example, most bachelors degree programs take four years to complete, whereas masters degrees require six total years of study. Doctoral programs might take eight or more years depending on your area of expertise and other circumstances.

Passing placement examinations with certain minimum grades or higher helps accelerate your time in college. Successfully completing a placement examination allows you to receive applicable credits for a course without having to actually take the classes. This therefore allows you to take another course in its place, effectively speeding up your pace toward graduation. 

Clinical Lab Technician Job Positions/Average Salaries

Post-graduate clinical lab technicians in the U.S. earn a variety of salary amounts depending on their level of education and area(s) of specialization. Common tasks involve testing human spinal fluid (and other matter), collecting and reporting data/results and operating applicable lab equipment. Specific clinical lab technician-related job titles include microbiologist tech, histotechnician, phlebotomist and cytotechnologist.

Average clinical lab tech salaries vary based on level of education, amount of experience, geographic area and more. For example, salaries might range from $25,000 to $85,000 per year or more. The median income for clinical lab technicians in 2020 (as obtained by the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey) was $54,180/year or $26.05/hour. Entry-level positions are most commonly granted to candidates holding bachelors degrees or higher. The projected job growth rate for this profession is seven percent through 2029, which is higher than many other U.S. professions’ predicted growth rates.

Top Schools

The National Accreditation Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences is an excellent reliable resource for finding top accredited clinical lab technician degree programs available in the U.S. today. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) offers one of the best clinical lab tech educational programs available. Additional top clinical lab technical degree programs available for enrollment in 2021 include:

Tuition Costs & Financial Aid Options

Tuition for clinical lab technician degree programs ranges from as little as (approximately) $10,000 per school year to as much as $65,000 or higher. In state, out-of-state, private, community and military-based colleges all have different tuition policies. Certification programs might cost even less than $10,000 under certain conditions as well.

Federal Pell Grants might be available as financial aid. School-specific scholarships might also be available based on financial need, academic achievements and more. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to understand your financial aid options to help pay for your clinical lab technician degree today.