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How do I Become a Clinical Laboratory Scientist?

By D. Jeffress
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

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.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By titans62 — On Aug 10, 2011

These are all good points, but I believe that when it comes to choosing experience or credentials it all depends on who is hiring and what they take into higher regard.

Although those who are going to school for the sole purpose of obtaining a bachelor's degree and are being trained for the scientist jobs, experience in the field, especially for multiple years, is invaluable. Someone who has a few years experience in the field does not need time to be acquainted with the job, something that someone just out of college cannot do. This is the advantage that someone with just an associate's degree has over someone with a bachelor's degree.

What should also be kept in mind is that someone with a bachelor's degree is not necessarily just trying to get hired for a job as a scientist. They can also become assistant's and work their way up like those with an associate's. I would think that if someone with a bachelor's degree is trying to get a job they would be more likely to get an assistant's job over someone who has just an associate's.

By jcraig — On Aug 10, 2011

I understand that someone's experience may be taken into consideration for a promotion but keep in mind that someone who has gone to college and has a higher degree in a science related field has a lot more knowledge and preparation and this is taken very highly into consideration.

Although the assistants who aspire to become scientists can do so through experience in the field, those who go to school for four plus years to obtain a bachelor's degree are being taught and trained for the sole purpose of filling those scientist jobs.

There are two different routes to go, but I say it is best for those aspiring to become scientists to go to school for the full four years and this will in itself qualify them for more positions right away, rather than someone who has to take however many years to work their way up in their field.

By Izzy78 — On Aug 09, 2011

@TreeMan - That is a good point. I would think that someone who already has experience in the field would be more qualified for the job than someone who simply went to school longer. Considering that this is a field that requires hands on work and judgment I would say that those hiring would look at someone who has worked for a few years in the field, as an assistant, and has much more experience than someone just out of college.

By TreeMan — On Aug 08, 2011

A question I have concerning becoming clinical laboratory scientist is the route of education. I wonder if in most cases it is better for the person to just graduate with an associate's degree and become an assistant. I would think that someone who has a few years experience in the field would be more inclined to move up than a person with a bachelor's degree getting hired for the job right away.

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