Medical technicians work in medical laboratories and conduct many of the tests utilized by physicians and research scientists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 156,480 individuals worked as medical and clinical laboratory technicians in 2010. These technicians earned an average annual salary of $38,190, according to the BLS. The number of jobs in this field is expected to increase by 14 percent through 2018. The length of time it takes to become a medical technician depends on your education and training.
An associate degree is the typical requirement for a career as a medical technician, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. The bureau notes that both technicians and technologists generally learn through a combination of formal education and hands-on training. About half of the education required for an associate degree includes general education courses in such subjects as English, math, history, psychology and communications. These courses provide a broad foundation for further education in upper-level courses later, should the student decide to seek a bachelor's degree.
Aspiring technicians seeking an associate degree typically do so in a field such as medical technology or another closely related field such as biology or chemistry that gives them laboratory experience. The typical associate degree program will take about two years to complete. Associate degree coursework for medical technology includes courses in chemistry, hematology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, immunology and pathogenic microbiology, among others.
Hands-on training is also necessary to become a medical technician. The amount of this training required to work as a medical technician can vary and depends upon the amount of experience the aspiring technician obtains through his formal education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that it is even possible to work in this field without a degree, provided the technician has the appropriate level of hands-on training.
Beyond the associate degree and clinical laboratory training, medical technicians can choose to also obtain a bachelor's degree in medical technology and, in doing so, qualify for a position as a medical technologist. The medical technologists performs many of the same job functions as the technician but has considerably more freedom to conduct more advanced and complex tests. An additional two years of college is typically needed for this and includes coursework in areas such as genetics and molecular diagnostics and clinical physiological laboratory work. All-in-all, the amount of time it takes to become a medical technician is about two to four years with some additional hands-on training.
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