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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

MLP Workforce Report

Published October 29, 2015 6:09 PM by Chelsea Lacey-Mabe

The attrition of lab professionals due to aging and retirement will open ample opportunities for new technicians and technologists. The need for diagnostic lab services will continue to increase with the aging population.

Donning gloves, a protective mask and goggles, they operate microscopes, study blood samples and analyze tissue samples for normal or abnormal findings, some even analyzing cells for an indication of a cancerous growth. This is all in a day’s work for medical laboratory professionals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth of 22 percent is expected between 2012 and 2022 for medical laboratory professionals, a rate that is much faster than the average growth for a career field. And that number could go even higher.

Jon Harol, laboratory recruiter for Lighthouse Recruiting, expects a vacancy rate of up to 40 percent in medical labs by 2018 because of older staff members retiring. Not only does this leave potential for new lab staff to enter the job field, it gives current laboratory professionals with a few years of experience under their belt to move up the career ladder as baby boomers exit the work force, leaving behind their career titles and higher pay scales.

Those same baby boomers are autonomously adding to the aging population, increasing the demand for medical lab procedures used to diagnose cancer and other diseases, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This will further strengthen job security for medical lab technicians and technologists who perform the procedures.

Launching a Lab Career
When considering this profession, it’s important to know that as with any job, new hires will likely have to pay their dues.

“Early on in your career you are probably going to end up working a lot of nights and holidays,” Harol said in an interview with ADVANCE. “However, if you stick with it you can usually work your way on to a day shift and be called on to work less holidays.

When employers are looking to hire, they’ll assess whether someone is right for the job. Similarly, people researching occupations should ask themselves whether they’re right for this line of work. Valuable qualities for medical laboratory professionals to possess are an ability to use technology, attention to detail, dexterity in order to work closely with needles and other lab equipment and physical stamina, since they may need to lift or turn a patient in order to collect a sample.

Most entry-level technologist jobs require a bachelor’s degree, usually in medical laboratory technology or life sciences. An associate’s degree is usually required to become a medical laboratory technician. Both types of programs typically include courses in chemistry, biology and mathematics.

Something else to take into account is that a number of schools and programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), which assures quality, value and innovation for healthcare providers, according to its website.

Requirements & Earnings
After graduation, some states require a license or certification to secure employment in the field. Harol finds that states with these requirements, such as New York, California and Florida, are often most in need for medical laboratory technologists and technicians due to the added requirement to enter the workforce.

As a group, medical laboratory professionals make an average of $47,820 annually. Technologists command higher salaries in the range of $57,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technicians educated at an associate’s degree level make slightly less. With job demand for these positions on the rise, salaries are expected to increase accordingly over the next few years.


While I do agree with the comments about the need for a pay increase to all lab associates, I would like to remind everyone that the grass is not always greener on the nursing side of the fence.  While yes, they get paid more for a 2 year degree than I do with my Bachelor's, they also have to deal with sick, whiny, crabby, ungrateful patients alot more than I do and they have to deal with the doctor's more than most laboratorians do.  Yes, we do get talked down to by do nurses.  Yes, we work short and don't feel supported by upper do nurses.  As a laboratorian, I have an impact in EVERY patient's care, every day.  Do I grumble about nurses getting paid more than I do.....of course.  But then I spend 10 minutes rounding with a phlebotomist and realize that I would not want to spend my day dealing with the patients, other nurses and doctors.

Tracy, Phlebotomy - Operations Coordinator November 19, 2015 2:05 PM
Warren MI

The elephants that these articles do not address is:

 1. Administration does not plan to replace those that retire. The plan appears to be more automated equipment.

2. In a lot of labs there is no differation in responsibility between those with a two year or four year degree. And I mean DEGREE not, challenging the board after so many years experience.

3.  Until we control places like ASCP and CAP, and stop depending on pathologists, we will NEVER get the pay. (When was the last time you saw a pathologist receive a deficiency?)

As much as I love the lab,I am seriously considering a jump  to nursing and then to nurse practitioner.

Ann, Lab - Point of Care/General November 14, 2015 10:35 AM
Houston TX

I still believe in the field after 44 years, but we are not recognized like the men and women in nursing. Staffing continues to be a problem in our facility due to low wages and no incentives. Next year I'll be 65 with the choice to retire. I'd like to stay, but the long hours, holidays, and staffing shortage may make the decision for me.

Carol, Microbiology - Supervisor November 14, 2015 9:03 AM

Same song, different page......for the past 20 years and the next 100 years. The pay and morale IS ALWAYS AN INSULT! AND!, a lot of people in this field are in denial! All I am striving for purposely right now is to live a careful and healthy lifestyle so that I will never sit-off a hospital or a clinic in my lifetime!

E V November 13, 2015 2:41 PM

I totally agree with the above  comments. I would go back to school get another degree if I had no kids to support. I wouldn't recommend  any young people to get to this field and stuck for the rest of their lives.

Christopher , CLS November 12, 2015 4:17 PM

Having worked in Microbiology for 30 years, I too would like hospital administration to recognize laboratory professionals and their work which is critical to patient care.  I have found the work to be rewarding and have enjoyed continually learning about new technologies, susceptibility challenges, and new pathogens.  To make this field more attractive, administration could institute a clinical track as well as a management track for advancement in the field.  Some of us enjoy lab work; management not so much.  Recognition, pay, and professional advancement opportunities would go a long way to attract young people to the field.

Janice, Microbiology - Medical technologist, Eskenazi Hospital November 12, 2015 2:55 PM
Indianapolis IN

this is not a field for anyone who is not capable of finding value in oneself because no one else will give it to you in a hospital enviroment. we are extremely intelligent people and are never given the kudos we deserve. all we ever hear is the doctors and the nurses. well now adays those people are lost without us yet we continue to be paid below nursing and even radiology. it is one of the truely thankless jobs in medicine.

kira , medical technology - lab manager November 12, 2015 2:46 PM

I would never recommend a young person to go into our field...we work long hours, no doctors to stand up for lab, holidays ( CHRISTMAS I left my children to work) no respect for less money.... my children work less hours and much more money for their family  now....I know and love to care for people but love mine as well....

nurses walk in getting paid more than myself and I

have worked for this company for nearly twenty years..  even directors above my level to not support higher  salaries for us..   YOUNG FOLKS LOOK ELSE WHERE.

Rita, hematology - supervisor November 12, 2015 2:04 PM
dallas TX

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