Prior to a doctor making a diagnosis, he or she sends blood and other bodily fluids to a laboratory. In the lab, a person must test these fluids and send the results back to the physician for analysis.
The person who performs a lot of the “behind the scenes” diagnostics is known as a medical technologist. If you have an interest in science, in particular chemistry, you may wonder what it’s like to be one and how much a medical technologist salary is per hour.
What a Medical Technologist Does
A medical technologist is a person who works in a clinical laboratory. As a medical technologist, you perform various types of tests on blood, urine, other bodily fluids, and tissue.
First, you determine the appropriate testing based on the doctor’s request. For instance, you may test the samples for bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Sometimes, you analyze the sample for proteins, vitamins, or minerals. In some cases, you test bodily fluids for drugs and toxins.
You might analyze the blood for blood transfusions, so you can make sure it’s safe for the patient who receives it. For instance, you evaluate the blood to ensure it’s compatible with the patient’s. You might also need to test the blood for any diseases that could transfer to the receiver.
Once you evaluate the blood, you may collaborate with physicians, so the doctor can adequately treat the patient.
Typical Responsibilities of a Medical Technologist
Usually, a phlebotomist, nurse, or other trained professional collects the sample and sends it to the lab. However, in some hospitals or offices, you may need to obtain the samples. Then, you prepare the sample for analysis, which varies based on the type of test or tests you need to perform on the sample.
Using automated equipment, special instruments, and specific processes, you test the sample based on the instructions of the physician. During an average day as a medical technologist, you use a variety of technical medical equipment.
You can expect to use a centrifuge to spin blood samples and cell counters to conduct complete blood cell counts (CBCs). You might use dyes, microscopes, and computerized equipment. In some cases, you may need to perform multiple tests on the same specimen.
Once you conduct testing, you must interpret the results and document both normal and abnormal results. Then, you send them to back to the physician in order for him or her to properly diagnose and treat the patient. Often, you must discuss the results of your testing with physicians.
On a daily basis, you must utilize your knowledge of infectious disease control and sterilization protocols.
How to Become a Medical Technologist
If you’re interested in working in a lab and making a medical technologist salary, you first need to attend college.
To become a medical technologist, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in medical technology or life sciences. The courses you must take to enter this field include the following:
Once you finish your college coursework, you then to complete a clinical portion, which consists of you receiving training on the laboratory practices you’ll need to know. For instance, you learn how to conduct the tests. You will also learn how to manage the lab and keep yourself and others safe.
It’s possible to complete a life science program in two years or less if you meet the prerequisites like having the necessary college credits or already possessing a bachelor’s degree. If not, you can first complete an associate’s degree program in clinical laboratory life science or a similar subject, and then complete your bachelor’s degree.
The other possible course of action for becoming a lab worker and earning a medical technician salary is to complete your training in the Armed Forces or a vocational or technical school.
Licensure and Certifications Necessary for Medical Technologists
The licensure you need depends on the state you live in, so you must contact your particular state’s department of health.
In some states, you need to obtain a certification to become a medical laboratory technologist. Typically, you need to take a test and pass it in order to receive your certification. Even if your state doesn’t require you to become certified, prospective employers prefer employees who have a certification because it shows they went the extra mile to prove they have the skills and knowledge to perform their duties.
Keep in mind, most licensing agencies require you to earn your degree before you can sit for the exam. In addition to the basic medical technologist certifications, you may want to specialize and earn a credential for an area of lab testing like cytotechnology.
Qualities You Need as Medical Technologist
You need more than just a desire to become a medical technologist. To obtain and maintain a position, you have to possess certain traits that show you qualify for the position. Once you have a steady position, exhibiting certain traits qualify you for raises, ultimately making your medical technologist salary higher – maybe even higher than the average.
One trait you must possess is the ability to use technology and learn new technology. The medical field constantly changes, and if you can’t keep up with the advances, you may not be able to continue as a medical technologist. Additionally, if you don’t have a firm grasp of technology, you may not perform tests correctly, which could lead to inaccurate results.
You have to stand for prolonged periods of time in the lab, so you must have the ability and physical stamina to do so. You also need good dexterity to use the tools and needles.
Another important quality skilled medical technologists have is the ability to pay attention to details. This job requires accuracy because patients’ lives depend on the tests you perform.
Average Medical Technologist Salary in the United States
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay per year as of 2017 was $51,770. The median medical technologist salary per hour was $24.89.
The BLS also published hourly and yearly salary statistics from two years prior. When you compare the salary of these two years, you’ll notice a decrease over time. For instance, the median pay in 2015 was $29.74 per hour and $61,860 per year.
In 2015, the bottom percentile earned $19.96 per hour and $41,510 per year. The highest medical technologist salary in 2015 was over $84,300 annually and $40.53 per hour.
Industries with Highest Level of Employment
Certain industries are known to have the most available positions for medical technologists. For instance, general medical and surgical hospitals have the highest level of employment, and the average medical technologist salary in this industry was $62,820 per year or $30.20 per hour.
Medical and diagnostic laboratories are also known for having a high level of jobs, and the average salary is this industry is $30.06 hourly or $62,530 annually. The industry with the third-highest level of employment is doctor’s offices. On average, you can expect to make around $59,170 yearly or $28.45 hourly there.
Additionally, colleges, universities, and professional schools are known for having a high level of jobs. The median medical technologist salary in this industry is $55,740 per year or $26.80 per hour.
The top-paying industry for medical technologists is management, scientific, and technical consulting services, which paid an average of $33.65 per hour or $69,990 per year. Medical equipment and supplies manufacturers are the second top-paying industry with a median hourly rate of $33.01 per hour or $68,670 per year.
The third highest paying industry is specialty hospitals, not including psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals. Typically, people in this industry make an average of $31.66 per hour or $68,100 per year.
Not only does the industry you choose to work in affect your medical technologist salary, so does the state you live in. The states known for the highest salaries include:
- District of Columbia
- Rhode Island
California is the state known for giving the highest salary. The median hourly salary in this state is $39.91 hourly or $83,000 yearly. Massachusetts ranks as the state with the second-highest median salary. On average, people in this state earn $71,690 yearly or $34.47 hourly.
The state that ranks as the one with the third-highest salary is Connecticut. Here, the median salary was $71,290 per year or $34.28 per hour.
Job Outlook for Medical Technologists
If the average medical technologist salary and job description appeal to you, it’s important for you to know that the BLS projects this career path will grow. In fact, the BLS forecasts the number of jobs in this field will grow by 12 percent from 2016 until 2026. This growth rate is actually faster than the average.
If you’d like to work in a laboratory and have a positive impact on people’s lives, you may want to become a medical technologist. Not to mention, the average medical technologist salary per hour is quite high, making this job rewarding to you in more ways than one.