A medical laboratory scientist, also referred to as a medical
technologist, is an allied health professional who is qualified by
academic and practical training to perform complex analytical tests in a
These highly skilled scientists discover the presence or absence of
disease and provide data that helps physicians determine the best
treatment for the patient. With the use of advanced skills and
sophisticated biomedical instrumentation, medical laboratory scientists
work behind-the-scenes to determine the levels of chemicals constituents
in blood and body fluids, classify cells for abnormalities, identify
bacteria and viruses causing infection and uncover markers for cancer
and inherited genetic diseases. In addition, they confirm the accuracy
of test results and monitor the quality of testing procedures.
Individuals interested in a career in medical laboratory science must
have a keen interest in science and mathematics and enjoy problem
solving. They must work well under pressure, be organized to finish a
task once started, expect quality in their work and be able to work with
minimal supervision. Patient contact is limited.
To prepare for a career in medical laboratory science, a student must
have a bachelor's degree in science plus clinical education in an
accredited medical laboratory science program. Many colleges and
universities offer a degree in medical laboratory science via two routes
of entry: a "3+1" or a "4+1" route.
In the "3+1" route (also known as a university-based program),
students complete approximately three years of appropriate prerequisite
courses at an accredited college or university that is affiliated with a
clinical laboratory. During the fourth year, they complete an
internship at an affiliated clinical laboratory which is usually located
in a hospital. In this route, the student will be granted a Bachelor of
Science degree in Medical Laboratory Science from the college or
university upon successful completion of the clinical internship.
Students who elect a "4+1" route (also known as a hospital-based
program) first complete their baccalaureate degree at a college or
university that offers the appropriate prerequisite medical laboratory
science courses. During the senior year, they apply and interview for
admission into an accredited hospital-based medical laboratory science
program. The student then completes the clinical internship after
graduation from the university.
Upon successful completion of either route, students are eligible to
take the national Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) certification
examination offered by the ASCP Board of Certification.