American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
What does an MLS/MLT do?
Clinical laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease in patients. It's estimated that 60 to 70 percent of all decisions regarding a patient's diagnosis and treatment are based on laboratory test results.
Clinical laboratory scientists, also referred to as medical technologists, and clinical laboratory technicians, also known as medical technicians, perform most laboratory tests.
Clinical Laboratory personnel microscopically examine and analyze body fluids (e.g., urine, peritoneal fluid, cerebrospinal fluid), tissues and cells. They also make cultures of these fluids to look for bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms. They analyze the chemical content of fluids, such a s blood glucose or cholesterol levels. They also match blood for transfusion and test for drug levels in the blood to show how a patient is responding to treatment.
Laboratory technologists and technicians also prepare specimens for examination, count cells, and look for abnormal cells. They use sophisticated equipment and instruments capable of performing a number of tests simultaneously, as well as microscopes, cell counters, and other high-precision laboratory equipment. Then, they analyze the results and relay them to physicians. With increasing automation and the use of computer technology, the work of technologists and technicians is quite analytical.
The complexity of tests performed, the level of judgment needed, and the amount of responsibility laboratory technologists assume will depend largely on the amount of education and experience they have.
Clinical laboratory technicians generally have an associate's degree and may work in all areas of the laboratory including chemistry, microbiology, transfusion medicine, immunology, hematology and genetics, or they may specialize and develop one expertise such as virology, molecular genetics and cytogenetics. They work under the supervision of technologists and make fewer decision in dependently. Laboratory technicians may work in a hospital laboratory or an outpatient clinic as well as a reference laboratory. Clinical laboratory scientists evaluate test results, develop and modify procedures, and establish and monitor programs, to ensure the accuracy of tests. Some clinical laboratory scientists supervise medical and clinical laboratory technicians. Laboratory scientists in small labs perform many types of tests, whereas those in large labs generally specialize.
Job opportunities are expected to be excellent, because the number of job openings is expected to continue to exceed the number of job seekers. Employment of clinical laboratory workers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2012, as the volume of laboratory tests increases with both population growth and the development of new types of tests.
The advancements in bioengineering have created numerous career opportunities in commercial, biotechnology, industrial and pharmaceutical companies. Laboratory scientists/technicians with computer experience and/or training are eligible for jobs with their company's computer systems support groups or with information technology companies. Training also qualifies them to work in the research and development branch of a commercial laboratory developing new technology or in the marketing and sales of laboratory equipment and products.
Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians held about 295,000 jobs in 2000. About half worked in hospitals. Most of the remaining jobs were found in medical laboratories or office and clinics of physicians. A small number were in blood banks, research and testing laboratories, and in the federal government at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and U.S. Public Health Service facilities.