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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Medical Lab Science is Still a Growth Career

Published December 22, 2013 3:55 PM by Glen McDaniel


Just this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its report of job prospects for the next ten years (actually between 2012 and 2022).



Not surprisingly, healthcare topped the list of attractive fields, projected to grow at almost three percent, adding an estimated 5 million new workers- a third of all new jobs.  The report also breaks down the statistics by occupational role. 


Most of the overall 10.8 percent growth will occur, not surprisingly in service jobs like healthcare as opposed to jobs that produce goods like manufacturing or construction. The healthcare sector is further broken down by scope.  It turns out that healthcare will be  among the four major occupational groups that are projected to grow more than 20 percent—nearly double the overall growth from 2012 to 2022. But healthcare support occupations will surpass healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (28.1 percent versus 21.5 percent. (See Chart 2 and Table 6).



As we all already know, in all areas of healthcare paraprofessionals will be in increasingly greater demand and will be utilized more as the population ages and care needs increase. Does that mean laboratory scientists will be replaced by laboratory aides or technicians? No, that is very unlikely. That fear is as unfounded as the perennial rumor that more instrumentation will eventually make medical lab scientists redundant.


It does mean two things, however. If paraprofessionals are to competently assume greater responsibilities and represent the laboratory even more, we have to make sure they are prepared to safely and effectively fulfil those roles.  Phlebotomists might be trained as lab assistants with expanded auxiliary roles. Customer service reps should be taught scripting to answer common questions and trained on when to escalate issues outside their scope. MLTs may be encouraged to become MLSs and assume more responsibilities. Education and training should be seen as added value; as should seeking national certification.


As roles shift across the entire healthcare team, the needs of the laboratory's customers will also change and we must be ready for the new challenge.  Scientists should jump at the opportunity to interact more with their peers outside the laboratory, instead of performing the more “tasky” duties that are customary.  There can be more effective representation on decision making committees like the Quality Council, Pharmacy, Nutrition and Therapeutics (PNT) committees and the like. 


Long delayed projects related to test utilization and provision of interpretive guidelines can be pursued.  Busy, overwhelmed clinicians would welcome  even the most basic phone consultations, if they were available. There are best practices to be established and research to provide hard data applicable to medical laboratory science practice, much like other professions have done.


Many of us are on our way out, possibly on the way to retirement. However it is heartening to know that our profession will continue to grow.



Where do you live "Not accurate"? It depends on where you are. I get lots of job openings in my email every day. I will happily share those with you.

No matter what profession you are in you can lose your job based on your performance, your specialty or your unwillingness to adapt to change. I know nurses looking for jobs but every study I see mentions the intense nursing shortage. Because a nurse doesn't have a job doesn't mean the nursing PROFESSION has no jobs or is a shrinking profession.

Some organization might cut back because of their own financial situation or because an individual is sub-par, but jobs are out there. Here in Atlanta many of my friends have 2 or 3 jobs, some work PRN-all because local hospitals cannot get enough full time techs. I worked in Tennessee and even with state licensure it wa sthe same thing-more jobs than techs.

Jasmine January 18, 2014 5:49 PM
Atlanta GA

Health care, for the first time, had a net loss of jobs according to employment data. Some of us in the lab have lost our jobs or seen our hours reduced due to automation, lab consolidation, reimbursement cuts. More of this is on the horizon unfortunantly. The health care reform doesnt necessarily mean more specimens. There will be more out of pocket expense so patients will be paying attention to what lab tests costs and whether or not the test is really necessary.

Not accurate January 17, 2014 12:28 PM

If you like science and medicine and working in an essential health career with absolutely outstanding job security, you should be entering a Clinical Laboratory Sciences program.  Unemployment in the field now is less than 2%! Salaries have never been higher in CLS and are becoming even more competitive. With the aging of America, CLS professionals will be essential in making 70% of all medical diagnoses by the tests performed on blood, spinal fluid, etc.  Without critical data, no diagnosis, treatment or prognosis can be provided. For this reason,  medical care would cease to function without the diagnostic clinical laboratory scientist to provide life-critical information.  CLS was named in the top 20 best occupations projected for the coming decade.

Linda Pifer, Clinical Lab. Science - Professor, Ph.D., University of TN Health Science Center January 10, 2014 3:57 PM
Memphis, TN

I like the report and your commentary. I believe healthcare is a growing field.

Many of us in medical lab science think we are in a dying field and will be replaced by nurses or even technicians that are cross trained to do lab work and other medical stuff. I think we will always be there and we just need to prove to the powers that be that we are invaluable.

The role of nurses and doctors will also change as time goes on, but you dont see them worrying that there will be be no more doctors and nurses.

Mary Scott December 23, 2013 11:11 AM
New Orleans LA

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