Medical laboratory professionals are key members of the health care team concerned with the study and practice of diagnostic medicine by delivering accurate patient test results. These important members include medical laboratory technicians (MLT) and clinical laboratory technicians, also referred to as clinical laboratory scientists (CLS). These healthcare professionals are trained to perform tests in such areas as urinalysis, chemistry, microbiology, hematology, immunology, and immunohematology (or blood banking) just to name a few.
Medical laboratory technicians and clinical laboratory scientists work in a variety of settings such as doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, research and reference laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and state and government agencies. The results from these laboratory tests help physicians to treat and diagnose patient illness. To become an MLT or CLS certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathology, also known as ASCP certification, is required.
What is an ASCP Certification?
The ASCP is a professional organization for pathologists, pathologist assistants, and laboratory professionals, specifically medical laboratory technicians and medical laboratory scientists (or clinical laboratory scientist), that offers education and certification for members of the medical laboratory profession. In states such as California and New York, ASCP certification qualifies laboratory professionals to get a state license. Most ASCP certification requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, however, some technicians such as a medical laboratory technician (MLT) require an associate degree, while laboratory assistants require only a high school diploma.
The ASCP offers over twenty professional certifications and membership for pathologists, pathologist assistants, and medical laboratory professionals. Certification is required to work as a medical laboratory technician or a medical laboratory scientist in a laboratory setting. ASCP certification shows that an individual has the knowledge, skills, and experience to work safely in the medical laboratory.
How Long Does It Take to Become Certified?
Although certification requirements vary by category, all categories include a combination of education, training, and clinical experience. ASCP certification is valid for three years. Maintenance requirements vary according to the different certifications, however, all ASCP certification requires yearly continuing education and practice hours. The ASCP certification is offered in the following categories:
ASCP certification for professional technicians includes phlebotomy technician, histotechnician, medical laboratory technician, and donor phlebotomy technician. Phlebotomy technicians require a high school diploma and completion of a phlebotomy training program while other technicians require a minimum of 60 post-secondary education credits or the completion of an associate degree. Completion of an associate degree must include coursework in chemistry and biology to be eligible for ASCP certification.
ASCP certification for technologists includes medical laboratory scientist, molecular biology, histotechnician, blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, cytotechnologist, and cytogenetics. Individuals must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in chemistry or biology and experience in a clinical laboratory.
Specialty ASCP certification includes a pathologist's assistant, laboratory safety, chemistry, microbiology, hematology, cytotechnology, and immunohematology, also known as blood banking. To get specialty ASCP certification a bachelor's degree is required in combination with other certifications. Holding a graduate degree while also having experience in a clinical laboratory setting qualifies an individual for specialty ASCP certification.
To get diplomat certification, an individual must have experience in all aspects of laboratory management including finance, human resources, operations, and management. To be eligible for diplomate ASCP certification a post-secondary degree and laboratory management experience are also required. The minimum requirement is a bachelor's degree with four years of experience and multiple laboratory certifications, however, a graduate degree is often preferred.
International ASCP certification offers credentials regardless of the individual's physical location in the world but varies based on regional location. Certification options allow an international designation for various laboratory professionals that includes medical technologist, phlebotomy technician, medical laboratory technician, molecular biology technologist, and gynecologic cytology technologists.
10 Best ASCP Certification Programs
Finding the right accredited post-secondary degree to fulfill the requirements for ASCP certification can be daunting. We have provided the 10 best schooling programs for medical laboratory science and medical laboratory technology.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Whether you are looking to become a clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) or achieve a higher degree, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers degree programs allowing one to earn a bachelor's degree as a medical laboratory scientist or a master's degree as a specialized technologist in the molecular science diagnostic (MDS) program. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a large university in a small city. Both clinical laboratory programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS), a requirement for ASCP certification.
University of Washington
According to an evaluation of medical programs in 2016, the University of Washington ranked eighth in research and first in primary care. The Seattle campus offers two NAACLS-accredited clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs including a bachelor of Science in medical technology (MT). The medical technology program is divided into two halves and takes four years to complete. The first half includes prerequisites and general education while the second half focuses on professional coursework where students gain clinical experience in one of the fourteen university-affiliated clinical laboratories.
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati offers two clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs. Besides a campus-based program, University of Cincinnati also offers an online program for individuals who have an associate degree with a clinical or medical laboratory focus who wish to further pursue a bachelor's degree. It is a large university in a large city. The bachelor's degree in medical laboratory science (MLS) has a focus on courses in science and concludes with a required clinical year that lasts for three semesters. The UC MLS program is approved by NAACLS.
Ohio State University
Ranked number 33 in a medical research evaluation, the Ohio State University offers a bachelor's and master's program in medical technology. It is a large university in a large city. Undergraduates enrolled in the medical laboratory science program receive a Bachelor of Science in health and rehabilitation science upon successful completion. Students pursuing a Master of Science in medical laboratory science follow a 3-year program making them eligible for certification. Both laboratory programs are approved by NAACLS.
Michigan State University
The Michigan State University offers two clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs in biomedical laboratory science and medical laboratory science. It is a large university in a small city. A clinical internship is required for the completion of both programs. Both programs are accredited by NAACLS.
University of California-Davis
UC-Davis offers one clinical laboratory technology/technologist program. It is a large university within a small suburb. Although it offers only one program, it boasts a 4-year bachelors-level nuclear medicine technologist program as a joint venture with the Oregon Institute of Technology. The program is accredited by NAACLS.
University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota is considered possessing one of the largest programs in the nation, offering four clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs. It is a large university in a small city. They offer a traditional 4-year bachelor's degree, a bachelor program designed for those who already have a bachelor's degree in another field, a medical laboratory technician to medical laboratory scientist program (which are offered both on campus and online), and categorical certificates in areas such as clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, and blood banking. All programs are accredited by NAACLS.
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin offers one clinical laboratory technology/technologist program. It is a large university in a large city. Students enrolled in this degree program take three years of undergraduate coursework in the medical laboratory field serving as preparation for clinical training in the fourth year. The program is accredited by NAACLS.
University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut offers one clinical laboratory technology/technologist program. It is a large university in a large city. Besides a medical laboratory program, a medical laboratory science post-baccalaureate certificate is available for individuals who hold a degree in biology, chemistry, molecular biology, or a related field. The program is accredited by NAACLS.
Arkansas State University
Arkansas State University offers two clinical laboratory technology/technologist programs. It is a large university in a small town. Students can earn an associate of applied science in clinical laboratory science or a Bachelor of Science in clinical laboratory science. Both programs as accredited by NAACLS.
Medical laboratory technicians and medical laboratory scientists are key healthcare professionals who perform laboratory testing. To pursue a career in the medical laboratory science field you can expect to take many science-focused classes including biology, microbiology, chemistry, math, and anatomy and physiology to scratch the surface. You can also expect to get ASCP certification to work in a doctor's office, clinics, hospitals, and in research and reference laboratories, as this is a requirement for these healthcare positions. To get ASCP certification, a bachelor's degree is required, however in the case of the medical laboratory technician, an associate degree is all that is needed. Certification is valid for three years and requires ongoing yearly continuing education to remain active. ASCP certification is key to a rewarding career in medical laboratory science.