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Detailed Guide for

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians in San Diego County

May also be called: Histologic Technicians; Laboratory Assistants; Laboratory Associates; Laboratory Technicians; Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLTs); Phlebotomists; Toxicology Laboratory Technicians

What Would I Do?

Laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians collect, examine, and analyze bodily fluids, tissue samples, blood, and other substances. They may also cut and stain tissue specimens for microscopic examination by pathologists. They use a variety of techniques to detect bacteria, viruses, fungus cells, cancer cells, and other agents of disease. These workers are often referred to as Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLTs) in the State of California. They work under the supervision of a licensed physician, surgeon, doctoral scientist, pathologist, clinical laboratory bioanalyst, clinical laboratory scientist, or a clinical laboratory specialist.

Medical Laboratory Technicians may prepare specimens, operate automated analyzers, or they may perform manual tests in accordance with detailed instructions.

Medical Laboratory Technicians may work in several areas of the clinical laboratory or specialize in just one. For instance, Phlebotomists collect blood samples from patients, and Histotechnicians cut and stain tissue specimens for microscopic examination by pathologists.

Tools used include microscopes, cell counters, and other sophisticated laboratory equipment. They may also use automated equipment and computerized instruments capable of performing a number of tests simultaneously. After testing and examining a specimen, they analyze the results and relay them to physicians.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Analyze the results of tests and experiments to ensure conformity to specifications, using special mechanical and electrical devices.Deductive Reasoning
Conduct blood tests for transfusion purposes and perform blood counts.Quality Control Analysis
Examine cells stained with dye to locate abnormalities.Inductive Reasoning
Collect blood or tissue samples from patients, observing principles of asepsis to obtain blood sample.Monitoring
Analyze and record test data to issue reports that use charts, graphs and narratives.Clerical
Conduct chemical analyses of body fluids, such as blood and urine, using microscope or automatic analyzer to detect abnormalities or diseases, and enter findings into computer.Medicine and Dentistry
Consult with a pathologist to determine a final diagnosis when abnormal cells are found.Speaking
Analyze the results of tests and experiments to ensure conformity to specifications, using special mechanical and electrical devices.Science
Set up, adjust, maintain and clean medical laboratory equipment.Equipment Maintenance
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Medical Laboratory Technicians generally work in well-lit, well-equipped, and temperature-controlled laboratories. In addition, the laboratories are usually clean; however, specimens, solutions, and reagents used in experiments sometimes produce toxic or unpleasant fumes. Technicians may also work in hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, blood banks, or stand-alone laboratories.

Technicians often spend a great deal of time on their feet. Those who work with infectious specimens must use proper methods of infection control and sterilization so that hazards are minimized. Protective masks, gloves, and goggles often are necessary to ensure their safety.

Medical Laboratory Technicians who work in hospitals or larger medical laboratories often work day, evening, or graveyard shifts and may work on weekends and holidays. Those who work in smaller facilities may work rotating shifts, rather than regular shifts. In some laboratories, Technicians may work on-call several nights a week or on weekends, in case of an emergency.

Some Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians are represented by labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

Medical Laboratory Technicians work with practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They work more with tools and equipment rather than with people. An exception to this would be Phlebotomists, who work directly with patients. This job also attracts workers who enjoy working with ideas and engaging in extensive amounts of thinking and problem solving.

Technicians need good analytical judgment and the ability to work under pressure. Close attention to detail is essential because small differences or changes in test substances or numerical readouts can be crucial for patient care. Manual dexterity and normal color vision are highly desirable. With the widespread use of automated laboratory equipment, computer skills are important.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Medical Laboratory Technicians may receive additional pay when working on-call, overtime, irregular shifts, or weekends. The highest wage earners for this large group are Histotechnicians, with the lowest wages generally paid to Phlebotomists.

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians in California is $46,454 annually, or $22.33 hourly. The median wage for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians in San Diego County is $47,529 annually, or $22.85 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$36,086$46,454$58,384
San Diego County$35,659$47,529$58,749
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Medical Laboratory Technicians generally receive benefits such as medical, dental, life, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Some may receive uniforms.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 20 employers in San Diego County, almost all provide medical insurance and vacation, and most provide retirement plan and sick leave and vision insurance benefits to Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance90%20%
Vacation80%30%
Retirement Plan65%35%
Sick Leave60%20%
Vision Insurance60%20%
Disability Insurance55%20%
Dental Insurance55%20%
Life Insurance50%15%
Paid Time Off Bank45%30%
No benefits0%20%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 18 employers surveyed who responded in San Diego County, who provides medical benefits, almost all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
All11%0%
Half or more72%100%
Less than Half17%0%
None0%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

The job prospects for Medical Laboratory Technicians are very good. New, increasingly powerful diagnostic tests should encourage additional testing and stimulate employment growth. In addition, the volume of laboratory tests continues to increase with population growth.

On the other hand, the opposing effects on employment growth include technological advances and the efforts made in research and development to simplify routine testing procedures. This allows the opportunity for non-laboratory personnel to perform tests generally conducted by MLTs.

Most jobs will continue to be in hospitals, but employment is projected to grow faster in other settings, such as medical and diagnostic laboratories, offices of physicians, and all other ambulatory health care services.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians are expected to increase by 23.3 percent, or 4,100 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians are expected to increase by 4.7 percent, or 80 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
17,60021,7004,10023.34,200
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
1,7101,790804.7450
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 410 new job openings per year is expected for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians, plus an additional 420 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 830 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 8 new job openings per year is expected for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians, plus an additional 45 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 53 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
410420830
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
84553
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Medical Laboratory Technicians must possess an associate degree in chemical, physical, biological, or clinical laboratory science, including a minimum of 36 semester units of physical or biological science from an accredited college or university. They must also have fulfilled one of the following requirements:

  • Have graduated from a medical laboratory technician training program recognized by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), or the United States military.

  • or
  • Have met admission requirements for the clinical laboratory scientist licensing examination as determined by the CDPH.

  • or
  • Have completed a minimum of three years (within the past five years) experience as an MLT or a clinical laboratory scientist in either a California physician's office laboratory or a clinical laboratory owned and operated by the U.S.

In addition to these requirements, MLTs must also pass the Medical Laboratory Technician Certifying Organization examination in order to apply for licensure and work in the State of California.

Experience

Employers usually prefer hiring MLTs with previous clinical laboratory experience. Experience with computers is also preferred.

Early Career Planning

Students who are interested in this field should take biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, English, foreign language, and computer courses.

Work Study Programs

California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for MLTs. One such program is titled Clinical/Medical Laboratory Technician. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Medical Laboratory Technicians must complete 12 hours of continuing education each year as a condition for license renewal.



Licensing and Certification

Medical Laboratory Technicians must be licensed to work in the State of California. To obtain licensure, applicants must submit an MLT license application and pay the appropriate fees as well as pass the Medical Laboratory Technician Certifying Organization examination administered by the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) or the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP). The licensing process generally takes 150 days once the completed MLT license application and official documents, such as college transcripts or documentation of MLT training or experience, is received. In addition, candidates must renew their licenses every two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Certification may be a prerequisite for jobs and is often is necessary for career advancement. Medical Laboratory Technicians may hold one or several certificates such as Medical Laboratory Technician, Phlebotomy Technician, Pathologist Assistant, Patient Care Technician, and Registered Vascular Technologist. Some employers require MLTs to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Clinical Laboratory Technician or Medical Laboratory Technician.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 31.7%
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories 26.4%
Offices of Physicians 14.2%
Outpatient Care Centers 11.1%
Employment Services 3.4%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 20 employers in San Diego County which employ 373 Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and most employ part-time Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians.

About Work Experience:  Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most require new hires to have prior work experience as Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 13%
25 to 60 months 13%
13 to 24 months 33%
1 to 12 months 40%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while many indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians.

About Hiring:  Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most expect the number of Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 30%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 65%
Expect Employment to Decline 5%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, 65 percent hired Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 85 percent filled existing vacancies, 46 percent filled newly created positions, and 31 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Hospitals advertise openings in newspaper classified ads, Internet job listings, and some also recruit through private employment agencies. Job seekers should apply directly to hospital personnel departments throughout California. Other job search methods include using a college job placement office, attending a job fair, and joining a professional society, especially one that provides services and attention to students. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians.

  • Doctor's Offices
  • Hospitals
  • Laboratories, Pathological, Analytical
  • Medical Clinics

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

With additional education and experience, Medical Laboratory Technicians can advance to clinical laboratory scientists. Some Technicians gain experience on the job and become supervisors or lab managers. Manufacturers sometimes hire Technicians to help develop or refine medical devices. Some also work in sales and marketing.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Biological TechniciansGuide
Chemical TechniciansGuide
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechnologistsGuide
Medical AssistantsGuide
Nuclear Medicine TechnologistsGuide
Respiratory Therapy TechniciansProfile

Other Sources

  • California Department of Public Health
         www.cdph.ca.gov
  • American Association of Bioanalysts, Board of Registry
         www.aab.org
  • American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
         www.ascls.org
  • National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
         www.naacls.org

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-2012
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians29-2012.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RIC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Clinical/Medical Laboratory Technician 511004
   Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science & Allied Professions, Ot511099
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Medical Laboratory Technology120500
   Polysomnography121100
   Orthopedic Assistant121400