What is a Medical Lab Tech and What Do They Do?

A medical lab tech is an important member of the healthcare team. They perform tests on patient samples that help doctors diagnose and treat diseases.

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Job Description

A medical laboratory technologist (MLT) is a healthcare professional who performs chemical, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, and microbiological analyses on body fluids such as blood, urine, sputum, and cerebrospinal fluid, as well as on tissues from biopsies and surgery.


A medical laboratory technologist (MLT) is a professional who performs medical laboratory tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and cells. These tests are essential in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

MLTs work in hospitals, clinics, and reference laboratories. They may specialize in specific areas of the laboratory, such as blood banking, microbiology, immunology, or histology.

The duties of an MLT vary depending on their specialization and work setting. However, all MLTs perform some or all of the following duties:
• Collect and process body fluid and cell samples from patients
• Perform routine laboratory tests on these samples
• Use microscopes and other sophisticated lab equipment to examine samples
• Monitor quality control procedures to ensure accuracy of results
• Keep detailed records of all test results
• Report abnormal results to physicians


Education: Most medical lab techs have either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science.

Communication Skills: Because they work closely with patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals, medical lab techs must be able to communicate effectively.

Detail Oriented: Medical lab techs must be able to pay close attention to detail in order to accurately collect and interpret data.

Analytical Skills: Medical lab techs use their analytical skills to determine the cause of diseases and disorders.

Technical Skills: Medical lab techs must be proficient in the use of computers and various types of lab equipment.

Education and Training

A person wishing to become a medical lab tech (MLT) must have at the very minimum, a high school diploma or equivalent. However, most employers prefer applicants to have an associate’s degree in medical laboratory technology from an accredited program.


In order to practice as a medical laboratory technologist, one must be certified by a nationally-recognized organization, such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology or the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel. Certification demonstrates that the technologist possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to perform his or her job at a high level of competency. Technologists may also choose to become certified in a particular area of concentration, such as blood banking or microbiology.


Medical lab techs are in demand and earn a median salary of $51,770 per year.

Job Outlook

The medical laboratory technologist job outlook is quite good. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not keep data on medical laboratory technologists specifically, they do report that the job outlook for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is expected to grow by 14% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than average.

Job Growth

Employment of medical and clinical laboratory technologists is projected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby-boom population ages, there will be an increase in the number of tests ordered by physicians to diagnose medical conditions. In addition, medical and clinical laboratory technologists will be needed to perform more sophisticated tests as a result of advances in medical technologies.

The use of healthcare services is expected to continue to rise as the population ages. An aging population means that there will be an increasing number of older adults who are more likely to have chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. These conditions often require laboratory tests for diagnosis and monitoring. In addition, as new technologies are developed, medical and clinical laboratory technologists will be needed to perform more sophisticated tests.

Job Opportunities

In 2018, there were about 358,600 medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in the United States. Most of these workers were employed in hospitals; about 1 in 4 worked in physicians’ offices. Others worked in independent laboratories, government agencies, or colleges, universities, and professional schools.

Employment of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for medical laboratory services is expected to increase as the population ages. In addition, as physicians have access to more information about their patients, they are likely to order more laboratory tests.

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