Laboratory Assistants, also referred to as Medical Laboratory Assistants (MLS) are professionals who work in the medical field preparing specimens and samples for laboratory testing.
These professionals must have strong attention to detail as they handle biological specimens needed to perform a variety of medical tests.
Education Requirements to Become a Laboratory Assistant
Individuals who want to become a Laboratory Assistant need a combination of skills and education to enter this profession.
Individuals who want to become a Laboratory Assistant only need a high school diploma for entry level positions.
However, most employers look for individuals who have at least an associate’s degree or several years of experience in the health care field.
Individuals must focus their associate’s degree in an applied science, life science, medical laboratory or a closely related field that provides hands on laboratory experience.
Some additional recommended courses include classes in mathematics, biology and chemistry and lab procedures.
In addition to an associate’s degree in any of these fields, individuals must also work on specific skills that will help them succeed in this profession.
Individuals who want to become a Laboratory Assistant must also be skilled in being detail oriented, diligent, communication skills and be able to work well in a team.
These skills are important because of the handling of several separate specimens for many different patients and for the prompt completion and analysis of tests for different medical departments.
Individuals who want to become a Laboratory Assistant may have to seek certification, but it depends on the state they live in.
If not state mandated, individuals will still benefit from certification because of the guidelines, professionalism and education a certification requests.
Certified individuals will show potential employers that they are committed to their line of work.
American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) for more information on certification and other programs and professions.
Laboratory Assistant Job Description
Laboratory Assistants are responsible for using advanced technology to conduct testing on biological specimens collected from a patient.
Typical specimens may include: blood, urine, tissues and other bodily fluids.
Laboratory Assistants must wear protective masks, gloves and goggles because of their contact with biological fluids.
This is both for the Laboratory Assistant’s protection and also to reduce any contamination to the samples.
Under the supervision of a Laboratory Technician, a Laboratory Assistant will analyze and test samples of blood, urine or other bodily fluids.
After a sample is done with the diagnostic tests, a Laboratory Assistant may also transfer the results to a patient’s medical file assuring there is no cross information being reported.
The type of testing done under the microscope will include searching for objects such as parasites, infections, bacteria, microorganisms or other things not common in the human body.
They will also glean information from tests useful in diagnosing medical ailments and other conditions.
In addition, Laboratory Assistants will be responsible for keeping the laboratory clean and up to code, register samples, log test results and order necessary lab equipment.
Laboratory Assistant Salary and Career Path
The median annual salary for Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, which includes Laboratory Assistants was approximately $37,240 in 2012.
Exact wages will depend on the level of experience and employer an individual works for.
Professionals in this industry work full time and may work nontraditional hours because of the round the clock hours that hospitals and laboratories have in place.
Round the clock hours may include graveyard shifts, evening, weekend or holiday hours.
An increase in the aging population, who require frequent medical attention, will cause an increase in medical services.
This demand will prompt an increase in jobs in this field by 30 percent through 2022.
The demand for laboratory personnel will help increase access for patients needing this type of service.
Individuals pursuing a career as a Laboratory Assistant can look forward to healthy job projections, good wages and the ability to use their attention to detail to handle and test specimens collected from their patients.
Because this is an entry level position, Laboratory Assistants may also have plenty of opportunities for advancement in other professions in the health care system.