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How to Become a Medical Technologist

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How to Become a Medical Technologist

Physicians and other health professionals need reliable test results to make informed diagnoses for their patients. Of course, they also rely on patient history, symptoms, and other variables, but most diagnoses must be confirmed by laboratory tests—and medical technologists are the professionals prepared to provide that confirmation.

Medical technologists perform incredibly important work behind the scenes, playing a vital role in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and providing answers to life-or-death questions practically every day.

If you’re looking for an exciting and rewarding career in healthcare doing impactful work, then becoming a medical technologist could be the perfect route for you. However, it’s important to learn what the work is like and the steps you must take to get started in this field.

In this medical technologist career guide from Soliant, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to become a medical technologist, including the steps in the career path, role requirements, job responsibilities, and more.

What is a Medical Technologist?

A medical technologist, also known as a medical laboratory scientist, med tech, or lab tech, is a skilled professional who performs diagnostic tests and analyses in a clinical laboratory setting. Medical technologists usually work in a hospital laboratory or in an independent laboratory that services hospitals or medical offices.

Medical technologists rarely come into contact with patients or physicians. Instead, they work in the background, playing a crucial role in healthcare with work that directly influences patient care and helps medical professionals make informed decisions regarding treatment plans.

What Does a Medical Technologist Do?

Medical technologists perform diagnostic tests and analyses in a clinical laboratory setting. Their primary responsibility is to examine and analyze various biological samples, such as blood, urine, and tissue, to aid in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and medical conditions.

In addition to assisting doctors with the information they need to make proper diagnoses, the testing and analysis that medical technologists perform can also help with treatment. Some tests help determine the right antibiotic to prescribe, while others monitor patient progress and guide ongoing treatment.

Medical technologists are also required to make decisions about the validity of specimens sent to the lab, and if a sample must be rejected, they must request that another sample be collected. These professionals also verify that test results match the specimens that were submitted and make sure that all tests are labeled and organized correctly. Also, med techs are responsible for maintaining laboratory equipment, and when equipment used in the lab breaks or experiences issues, med techs must troubleshoot and repair problems.

What do medical technologists do?

Daily job duties of medical technologists might include:

  • Collect and process patient samples, such as blood, urine, and tissue, to perform tests and analyses.
  • Conduct laboratory tests to help diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases.
  • Analyze test results.
  • Communicate findings to physicians or other healthcare professionals.
  • Maintain laboratory equipment, such as performing regular maintenance and troubleshooting any issues that may arise.
  • Ensure quality control.
  • Document test results in patient records and maintain confidentiality of patient information.
  • Stay up to date with the latest advancements in laboratory testing and medical research.
  • Ensuring compliance with regulations, including all local, state, and federal regulations governing the operation of clinical laboratories.

What do medical technologists test for?

Medical technologists are trained to conduct detailed laboratory testing for all kinds of health issues, for example, testing for a patient’s cholesterol or glucose levels and analyzing the results or conducting specialized testing for genetic disorders. Medical technologists can also provide cancer testing results and use tests to identify antibiotic-resistant infections or determine a patient’s blood type to prepare for surgery.

With all the different types of lab work needed, medical technologists’ work can be varied. In general, they spend their days performing laboratory testing and logging test results according to established lab protocols.

To perform tests, medical technologists must analyze samples of blood, tissue, and body fluids. Tests often involve determining these samples’ chemical content, cell count, drug levels or blood type, or whether certain bacteria or parasites are present. In many cases, these samples are infectious, so infection control and sterilization are crucial for minimizing hazards.

How to Become a Medical Technologist

To become a medical technologist, you’ll need a strong stomach, physical stamina, and great attention to detail. If this sounds like you, then the following steps are needed to land a job:

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: The first step in becoming a medical technologist is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from an accredited program. At most colleges and universities, the medical technology department is housed in the department of allied health. While a medical technology degree is preferred, a bachelor’s degree in life sciences, biology, or other related medical technologist fields is generally considered to be acceptable to become a medical technologist.
  2. Get Certifications: In addition to the appropriate degree, most employers also require medical technologists to hold valid certification from the American Medical Technologists (AMT) organization. Earning this credential includes studying for and taking an exam, and you must keep your certification current each year. In addition to the AMT certification, med techs are required to obtain any state-level certifications as well as meet state requirements to become a medical technologist.
  3. Consider Career Advancements: The degree and certification are the minimum requirements for medical technologists. However, there are other steps that can boost your chances of getting hired, such as obtaining previous laboratory experience. Working as a laboratory assistant while getting your credentials as a medical technologist can help build your previous experience and make your resume stand out. If you wish to eventually advance your career to a manager or director position, a master’s degree will be required. Plus, this can give you an edge over your competitors in the growing job market.

How long does it take to become a medical technologist?

It generally takes four to five years to become a medical technologist. This accounts for the four to five years needed to complete a full-time bachelor’s degree program and acquire the necessary certifications.

What is a Travel Medical Technologist?

A travel medical technologist is a healthcare professional with the same job responsibilities, duties, and requirements as a medical technologist; however, they work on a temporary or contractual basis, traveling to different healthcare facilities, hospitals, or clinics across various locations.

Travel medical technologist positions give professionals the opportunity to take on roles in a variety of different settings. The increasing demand for medical technologists has made travel opportunities very attractive for professionals looking to see new places and help healthcare centers across the country.

In addition, travel medical technologists benefit from higher pay rates, flexibility in work schedules, exposure to different work environments, and the chance to develop a wide range of professional skills.

How to become a traveling medical technologist

The steps to becoming a travel med tech are nearly identical to those of becoming a medical technologist with a permanent position. The only difference is that a travel medical technologist must meet the licensing requirements of each state in which the assignment is. However, not every state requires a license. If you are interested in becoming a travel med tech, our expert recruiters will walk you through which states require licenses and help ensure you meet all the requirements for an assignment.

How Much Do Medical Technologists Make?

The average salary for medical technologists varies depending on experience, education, and location. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians was $57,380 in May 2022. The lowest 10% earned less than $35,220, and the highest 10% earned more than $84,670.

The highest-paying states for medical technologists are New York, Connecticut, Oregon, New Hampshire, and New Jersey.

How much does a medical technologist make an hour?

On average, medical technologists make $28.43 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median hourly wage for medical technologists is $27.59. In May 2022, the lowest 10% earned less than $16.93 an hour, and the highest 10% earned more than $40.71 an hour.

However, keep in mind that job requirements, location, and experience will also impact how much med techs make an hour.

Become a Medical Technologist Today

The employment outlook for medical technologists is excellent, and experts are predicting significant growth over the next several years—meaning there’s never been a better time to take on a career as a medical technologist. Explore roles waiting for you today with Soliant here, and get ready to embark on a deeply rewarding and exciting career!