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I need some help figuring out my plans after college!

This question is very specific to me, but may help others in a similar position. I am a junior in college studying health science with a specialization in biomedical science. I really want to become a medical technologist (not a technician). In your opinion, what is the best path to accomplish this? Should I receive an associates in MLS in order to get ASCP certified? Should I go to grad school for lab science? Is there a related graduate degree I can receive that will still allow me to work in a lab (preferable hospital/clinic lab)? Thank you! health career-path medicallabscience medicaltechnologist labtechnologist graduateschool laboratory labscience student

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Mary Jane’s Answer

I think "best" depends on how much time and money you have. Do you want to complete your current degree? Do you want to transfer into an undergraduate MLS program? Would you feel OK about completing an AA degree or do you want the personal satisfaction of an MS? There's usually not one perfect path, however, in general, a BS degree is going to result in a higher salary and more opportunities for advancement than an AA. An MS might provide an even higher salary or the ability to perform research. Some people feel like they need to continue in "school mode" because it would be too hard to return after a break if they decide they need that advanced degree. Others need some time to get the money together for a grad program or they might bank on finding an employer who would help pay for continuing their educational credentials. It really depends on your long-term goals in the profession and what you're willing to do education-wise over the next several years.

If you haven't already done so, check out https://www.laboratorysciencecareers.com/, specifically the "Career Pathways" section and the "Education, Certification & Licensure" section.

There certainly are some Masters programs, for example at Rush University and George Washington University. However, you may be able to transfer into an undergraduate program if you don't want to finish your current course of study (GW also has post-baccalaureate certificates that don't require a second degree). There are also a lot of hospital-affiliated which you'd likely be eligible for after completing your undergraduate degree, assuming you've completed all their biology and chemistry prerequisites. The NAACLS has a huge database of programs at https://www.naacls.org/Students.aspx. It would be worth checking the prereqs of the various programs to make sure you take those classes before graduating if you intend to finish your current degree.

You might check to see if your college has a pre-health advisor who can help you work through the best path for you at this point. Something like LinkedIn or an alumni database in your career center could be a valuable tool for finding people doing the kind of work that interests you. You can reach out to them and request an informational interview, where you might be able to get a better sense of the pros/cons of each of the different career paths you're considering. Good luck!

Thank you so much for all of the advice; it’s so refreshing to actually talk to a real person rather than depending on Google searches! Abby T.

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Nattakarn’s Answer

Hello, Abby

Please see the link below for more details about this career path. You can also search for other occupation as well. I put the summary below for your reference.

Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm

How to Become a Clinical Laboratory Technologist or Technician
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians
Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree.
Clinical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Technicians usually need an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.

Education
An entry-level job for technologists usually requires a bachelor's degree in medical technology or life sciences.

A bachelor’s degree program in medical laboratory technology, also known as a medical laboratory scientist degree, includes courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, and statistics. Students typically complete college coursework and then apply to the clinical portion of the program. Coursework emphasizes laboratory skills, including safety procedures and lab management, while the clinical portion includes hands-on training in a typical work setting like a hospital. Some laboratory science programs can be completed in 2 years or less and require prior college coursework or a bachelor’s degree.

Clinical laboratory technicians often complete an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory science. The Armed Forces and vocational or technical schools also may offer certificate programs for medical laboratory technicians. Technician coursework addresses the theoretical and practical aspects of each of the major laboratory disciplines.

High school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the medical laboratory sciences should take classes in chemistry, biology, and math.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed. Requirements vary by state and specialty. For specific requirements, contact state departments of health, state boards of occupational licensing, or visit The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.

Certification of clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is required for licensure in some states. Although certification is not required to enter the occupation in all cases, employers typically prefer to hire certified technologists and technicians.

Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians can obtain a general certification as a medical laboratory technologist or technician, respectively, or a certification in a specialty, such as cytotechnology or medical biology. Most credentialing institutions require that technologists complete an accredited education program in order to qualify to sit for an exam. For more credentialing information, visit the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, American Medical Technologists, and the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Important Qualities
Ability to use technology. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must understand how to operate computerized lab equipment.

Detail oriented. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians must follow exact instructions in order to perform tests or procedures correctly.

Dexterity. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians need to be skilled with their hands. They work closely with needles and precision laboratory instruments and must handle these tools effectively.

Physical stamina. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians may work on their feet for long periods while collecting samples. They may need to lift or turn disabled patients to collect samples for testing.

Advancement
After additional education, work experience, or certification, technologists and technicians may specialize in one of many areas of laboratory science, such as immunology, histotechnology, or clinical chemistry. Some clinical laboratory technicians advance to technologist positions after gaining experience and additional education. Some colleges have bachelor’s degree programs for medical laboratory technicians to become technologists (often referred to as MLT to MLS programs).
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