Clinical laboratory scientists are medical professionals who perform tests on samples of human tissue, blood, and fluids to detect the presence of disease, bacteria, and other abnormalities. Their work is vital to helping doctors determine the proper course of treatment for patients. In order to become a clinical laboratory scientist, a person must typically receive a bachelor's degree in medical technology or biological science and complete a nationally accredited program. A professional might begin his or her career as a laboratory technician or assistant, and receive extensive on the job training to eventually become a clinical laboratory scientist. In addition, specific certification and licensing is required by some states and employers.
Prospective clinical laboratory scientists frequently pursue bachelor's degrees at four year universities. They often major in medical technology or a related branch of biological science, such as chemistry or physiology. Students receive classroom and laboratory instruction, learning about terminology, techniques, and equipment involved in their eventual careers. Many students choose to enroll in advanced mathematics and statistics courses to gain a better understanding of data analysis.
Another option for a person wanting to become a clinical laboratory scientist is to first gain employment as a laboratory technician or assistant. Becoming a laboratory technician usually requires the completion of an associate degree program from a community college, vocational school, or accredited online program. Laboratory technicians perform many duties which aid laboratory scientists, such as collecting samples, setting up testing equipment, entering data, and cleaning the laboratory. After one to three years of training and experience, most dedicated laboratory technicians are able to become scientists.
In the United States, a hopeful scientist is usually required to complete a certification program offered by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) before he or she can officially become a clinical laboratory scientist. NAACLS programs are available at many universities, hospitals, and health science institutes. Many countries rely on organizations similar to the NAACLS to supervise national certification programs. Additional certification is offered by various professional organizations, which may prove beneficial in gaining employment in clinical laboratories.
Licensure is required by many states and countries in order to become a clinical laboratory scientist. Although specific requirements for licensing vary from region to region, most programs entail comprehensive written exams about laboratory procedures and medical terminology. Before getting started in a clinical laboratory science career, future scientists should investigate the specific licensing, certification, and education requirements in their area.