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Detailed Guide for

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists in California

May also be called: Clinical Laboratory Scientists; Lab Technologists; Medical Laboratory Scientists; and Medical Technologists

Specialties within this occupation include: Cytogenetic Technologists; Cytotechnologists; Histotechnologists

What Would I Do?

Physicians typically order medical tests when a disease or disorder is suspected to be the cause of an illness. Most testing is done in a modern clinical laboratory using automated testing equipment that can do many of the more routine tests, such as breaking down the components of the blood. However, when human judgment is needed clinical laboratory personnel become involved. Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists play a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases.

Medical Technologists prepare specimens for testing and microscopic examination. After testing and examining a specimen, they analyze the results and record the findings into a database. Technologists are responsible for effectively communicating test results to physicians or other laboratory personnel and health care providers. Typical duties include typing and cross-matching blood samples for transfusions; examining bodily fluids and tissue samples to determine the presence of bacteria, parasites, or other microorganisms. They also analyze samples for chemical content to determine concentrations of compounds, such as blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Medical Technologists develop and modify procedures as well as establish and monitor programs to ensure the accuracy of tests.

With increasing automation, the work of Medical Laboratory Technologists has become less hands-on and more analytical. Some of the computerized instruments used in laboratory work are capable of performing a number of tests simultaneously. However, Technologists’ ability to analyze test results accurately and use good judgment is valued by other professionals in the medical field. The amount of responsibility they assume depends largely on the amount of education and experience they have. More experienced Medical Laboratory Technologists may supervise other laboratory personnel or perform administrative duties. Technologists in small laboratories are likely to perform many types of tests, whereas those in large laboratories generally specialize.

Cytogenetic Technologists analyze chromosomes found in biological specimens such as amniotic fluids, bone marrow, and blood to aid in the study, diagnosis, or treatment of genetic diseases.

Cytotechnologists stain, mount, and study cells to detect evidence of cancer, hormonal abnormalities, and other pathological conditions. One of the more frequent tests performed by Cytotechnologists is the Papanicolaou (Pap) test that is used to detect cervical cell abnormalities and malignancies.

Histotechnologists prepare slides from human tissue sections for microscopic examination and diagnosis. They typically work within a pathology department in large hospitals, but may also perform general Technologist duties. The work requires expediency as Histotechnologists are relied upon by pathologists to quickly test and analyze tissue sections during the course of a patient's surgery.

Tools & Technology

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists use a variety of tools in the course of their work such as capillary tubes, cell counters, laminar flow stations, microscopes, and photometers, as well as chemistry, hematology, and computer-controlled analyzers. They also use technology such as electronic medical record (EMR), laboratory information system (LIS), database, and test routing software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

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

TaskSkill Used in this Task
Conduct chemical analysis of body fluids, including blood, urine, and spinal fluid, to determine presence of normal and abnormal components.Chemistry
Analyze laboratory findings to check the accuracy of the results.Inductive Reasoning
Enter data from analysis of medical tests and clinical results into computer for storage.Clerical
Provide technical information about test results to physicians, health care providers and researchers.Oral Expression
Operate, calibrate and maintain equipment used in quantitative and qualitative analysis, such as spectrophotometers, calorimeters, flame photometers, and computer-controlled analyzers.Operation Monitoring
Establish and monitor quality assurance programs and activities to ensure the accuracy of laboratory results.Quality Control Analysis
Set up, clean, and maintain laboratory equipment.Mechanical
Supervise, train, and direct lab assistants, medical and clinical laboratory technicians and technologists, and other medical laboratory workers engaged in laboratory testing.Monitoring
Collect and study blood samples to determine the number of cells, their morphology, or their blood group, blood type, and compatibility for transfusion purposes, using microscopic techniques.Biology
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET) at online.onetcenter.org

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary with the size and type of employment setting. Laboratories usually are well lit and clean; however, specimens, solutions, and reagents sometimes produce fumes. Protective masks, gloves, and goggles often are necessary to ensure the safety of laboratory personnel. Clinical Laboratory Technologists are trained to work with infectious specimens. When proper methods of infection control and sterilization are followed, few hazards exist. Laboratory workers may spend a great deal of time on their feet and are expected to maintain mental alertness.

In large hospitals or in independent laboratories that operate continuously, Technologists typically work a 40-hour workweek. They may work the night shift as well as weekends and holidays. Laboratory Technologists in small facilities may work on rotating shifts, rather than on a regular shift, and in some facilities, they are on call several nights a week or on weekends in cases of an emergency.

Unionization is not common in this occupation. However, Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists who work for government agencies or large hospitals may belong to a union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Medical Laboratory Technologist may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas and technology. The job requires an extensive amount of thinking, searching for facts, and figuring out problems. Medical Technologists must also be able to communicate with research team members and production staff at all levels. Results-oriented individuals who are attentive to detail, confident decision makers, and technology proficient may enjoy this type of job.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists in California was N/A annually. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/wages.html Wages do not reflect self-employment.


Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists generally receive good benefits including medical, dental, life, and vision insurance, as well as vacation, sick leave, and pension plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment of Medical and Clinical Lab Technologists will see some growth. This is due to the increasing volume of laboratory tests as the population ages, new types of tests being developed, and health care legislation. However, research and development efforts targeted at simplifying routine testing procedures may enhance the ability of non-laboratory personnel such as physicians and patients, to perform tests now conducted in laboratories.

Projections of Employment

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

The minimum educational requirement for entry-level jobs is a bachelor's degree in medical technology or in one of the life sciences. A master's or doctoral degree is necessary for college teaching, independent research, and some administrative jobs. The level of responsibility and type of work performed determine the degree required.

In order to do testing and analysis of human samples, Medical Laboratory Technologists must be licensed with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Personnel who are not licensed may work in federally funded nonprofit laboratories, academic institutions engaged in teaching or research, state-licensed community clinics, private physicians' offices, and some state government agencies.


Most employers prefer to hire applicants who have obtained a bachelor's degree and completed at least two or more years as a state-licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS).

Early Career Planning

Those interested in becoming a Medical Laboratory Technologist should take classes in biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, English, speech, health, and computer technology. Some Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) offer introductory courses in medical technologies and terminology. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site at www.carocp.org/carocps.html.

Continuing Education

To renew a CLS license, the license holder must obtain 24 hours of continuing education approved by accrediting agencies or from an accredited academic institution during the two-year renewal cycle from the date the license was issued. Immunohematologists, Cytogenetic Technologists, and Hematologists are included in the CLS license continuing education requirements. Cytotechnologist licensees must, however, obtain 12 hours of continuing education annually.

Licensing and Certification

Completion of a bachelor's degree is followed by a 12-month CDPH approved CLS training program or a 12-month National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) training program in a clinical laboratory approved by the CDPH. All candidates accepted into a clinical training program must first obtain a trainee license from the CDPH. The most recent list of training programs can be found on the CDPH's Laboratory Field Services Web site.

Contact CDPH for an application and instructions prior to graduating. A renewable training license will be issued once a bachelor's degree is obtained and final transcripts have been confirmed. Most programs will interview and accept students before they have received their trainee license as long as they will have their license prior to actually starting training programs.

Upon successful completion of the 12-month CLS training program, participants are awarded the Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology Certificate. Certified candidates then take the California CLS licensing exam and one of the certification exams offered by the American Society of Clinical Pathology. After a trainee has passed the required examinations, they may apply for California licensure through CDPH. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Medical Laboratory Technologists may hold one or several certificates such as: Certification in Clinical Pathology, International Medical Technologist, Specialist in Cytotechnology, and Certified Medical Interpreter. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site at www.acinet.org and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" at www.acinet.org/certifications_new/default.aspx and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information at www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/resources/training-and-apprenticeships.html

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?

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers is one of the best ways to find a job. Hospitals and medical laboratories are the largest employers of Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists. Other possible job search methods include using a college placement service, attending healthcare job fairs, and visiting a One-Stop Career Center. 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 Technologists.

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, use "Find Employers" on the LaborMarketInfo Web site at http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/aspdotnet/databrowsing/empMain.aspx?menuChoice=emp

Where Could This Job Lead?

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists may advance to supervisory or administrative positions in laboratory work. Manufacturers of home diagnostic testing kits and laboratory equipment and supplies also seek experienced Technologists to work in product development, marketing, and sales.

Professional certification and an advanced degree in medical technology, one of the biological sciences, chemistry, management, or education usually speeds advancement. A doctoral degree usually is needed to become a laboratory director. Federal regulation requires directors of moderately complex laboratories to have at least a master's degree in combination with the appropriate amount of training and experience.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists.

Other Sources

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.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification at www.bls.gov/soc/29-2011
O*NET - Occupational Information Network at online.onetcenter.org/
   Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists29-2011.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC) at online.onetcenter.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/#curIRC
   Cytogenetic Technologists29-2011.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC) at online.onetcenter.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/#curIRC
   Interest Codes (RIASEC) at online.onetcenter.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/#curIRC
   Histotechnologists and Histologic Technicians29-2011.03
   Interest Codes (RIASEC) at online.onetcenter.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/#curRIC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs at nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/cip2000/
   Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science & Allied Professions, Ot511099
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs at www.ccccurriculum.info/ (California Community Colleges)
   Orthopedic Assistant121400

The California Occupational Guides are a product of:
The California Employment Development Department
Labor Market Information Division

Printed on Saturday, June 25, 2022