Job Description of a Medical Technologist
Medical technologists are an integral part of nearly every medical diagnosis. Most diagnoses come by way of information ascertained through blood work or tissue samples and medical technologists are the people who perform these tests. Most medical technologists work in hospital laboratories and use complex medical testing equipment, so they need college degrees with heavy science emphasis. Medical technologists are in high demand and are expected to be in high demand through the year 2016 and beyond. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, excellent job opportunities should continue in the filed for years to come.
Medical technologists need to have at least a bachelor's degree in science. They need to have a basic grasp of scientific laboratory procedures, including using laboratory equipment and generating reports from laboratory tests. Many first obtain associate's degrees in science, then work as medical technicians, who assist medical technologists, as a means of entering the discipline and gaining experience. Medical technologists who hope to advance to laboratory managers and those who wish to work in highly specialized areas of fluid and tissue examination need to obtain a master's degree. Some states require their medical technologists to be licensed through an agency like the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel. There are several accrediting bodies for laboratory technicians, and requirements vary by state and specialty.
Medical technologists spend the bulk of their time testing blood and bodily fluids. They use complex laboratory equipment to ascertain a wide variety of information. For example, medical technologists may examine specimens for bacteria, viruses or parasites. They may measure levels of drugs or other chemicals in the blood to help ensure medications are at their most therapeutic levels. They look at the chemical content of the blood to determine deficiencies in nutrients or excesses of cholesterol or blood sugars. They make use of cell counters, cultures, microscopes and various other equipment, which they must also know how to calibrate and maintain. They must also follow the lab's protocol for analyzing, interpreting and delivering test results.
Most medical technologists work in laboratories contained within hospitals. They analyze specimens collected and delivered on site by phlebotomists, nurses and doctors. Because they come in contact with infectious waste on a regular basis, medical technologists are required to follow a long list of laboratory safety protocols, including mandates on how to handle specimens and what types of protective gear are required. Because of the testing equipment involved, medical technologists spend a great deal of tie on their feet. Because medical services are needed at all hours, many are required to work overnight or weekend shifts.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2006 the average salary for a medical technologist was between $41,000 and $58,000. Those in the highest salary bracket earned more than $69,000, while those in the lowest bracket earned around $34,000 per year. Medical technologists who worked for the federal government earned the highest average salaries at around $57,000. The lowest paid worked at universities and earned $45,000. Hospitals, the largest employers of medical technologists, paid their workers an average of $49,000.
The Department of Labor anticipates that job opportunities in this category will grow rapidly in the near future and that a large number of medical technologists will be needed to keep up with the demand. It is expected that the majority of these opportunities will remain in hospital settings, however; the rate of employment will grow faster at private laboratory testing facilities. It is estimated that the field will experience a 14 percent rate of growth, which far exceeds average job growth for other occupations. This is attributed to a larger number of tests being developed, the influx of services needed by baby boomers and above average population growth. The number of open jobs is expected to exceed the number of available workers.