Are you interested in becoming a laboratory technician, but don't know where to begin? You're on the right track, simply by choosing this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, laboratory science is one of the fastest-growing fields out there.
Another advantage to becoming a laboratory technician is that it doesn't take long to get into the field. This position requires either a certificate or an Associate's degree. Certificate programs can be completed in the military, or at hospitals, technical schools, or vocational schools, and usually take one year. You can get your Associate's degree to become a laboratory technician at most community colleges in two years. Occasionally, technicians are able to train on the job, but this is rare.
There are nearly 500 accredited programs in the U.S. for lab technicians and technologists. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences maintains a list of accredited schools at http://www.naacls.org. Typically, students in the laboratory technician program will study chemistry, immunology, lab math, microscopy, pathology, and microbiology. However, it is possible to specialize in one area, which may help in your job search.
Some states also require certification for all lab employees, as do many employers. This entails taking an exam through either the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) or the American Medical Technologist (AMT) after receiving your degree or certificate.
Lab technicians are supervised by lab technologists, or sometimes doctors. Technicians perform a wide variety of duties. These may include preparing specimens for testing, conducting tests, and analyzing specimens. The complexity and range of job duties varies from employer to employer.
Most lab technicians start out working in hospitals, which are usually either local or acute care facilities. Later in your career, you might work in a private setting. This might mean being employed by a non-profit health group, clinic, private lab, or the R&D department of a pharmaceutical corporation.
Laboratory technicians can become lab technologists, performing more complex work and supervision, by obtaining a four-year degree. There is a relatively high turnover rate for laboratory positions, since there is so much opportunity to move up.
You can offset the cost of your education fairly quickly as a lab technician, since the time spent in school is short. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary in 2006 was $32,840. If you become a technologist, you'll increase your salary by about $17,000 annually.