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What is a medical laboratory?
A medical laboratory (lab) is any facility that does laboratory testing on specimens derived from humans to give information for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease or assessment of health.
Why are medical laboratory tests performed?
An estimated 60% to 70% of diagnoses and/or treatments are based on lab tests. Your doctor may request one or many lab tests depending on your condition, and then use the lab results to identify changes in your health condition, diagnose a disease or condition, plan your treatment, evaluate your response to a treatment or monitor the course of a disease over time.
Why are medical laboratory professionals so important?
The practice of medicine cannot exist without the skilled testing performed by medical laboratory professionals. Using these test results, pathologists can accurately diagnose diseases. Without the correct diagnoses, patients do not receive the right treatments, which can cause unnecessary suffering and, sometimes, early death.
Why should I pursue a career as a medical laboratory professional?
There are so many reasons a career as a medical laboratory professional can be a great choice! It comes with a lot of benefits, including competitive pay, freedom of choice in where to live and work, multiple paths to certification and close working relationships with colleagues. And on top of that, you’ll know that your work is impacting—and saving —people’s lives.
What classes should I take in high school?
You should take a variety of science and math courses like biology, anatomy and physiology, physics and chemistry to help you prepare for course work in a medical laboratory program. And don’t forget about liberal arts courses—they’ll help you develop strong communication skills that are crucial for successful laboratory professionals.
What if I don’t have a strong academic background in science? Can I still pursue a career in the medical laboratory profession?
Yes! It’s never too late to prepare for a career in the medical laboratory profession. Most high schools and colleges have guidance counselors that can help you determine your next steps and guide you along this career path.
How do I find a school with a medical laboratory program?
You can find a program near you by visiting www.naacls.org/search/programs.asp
What if I can’t afford to attend a 4-year university? Are there career opportunities in the medical laboratory that don’t require a bachelor’s degree?
Funding your education is a big decision. The good thing is that not every career in the medical laboratory requires a bachelor’s degree. For example, to be a phlebotomist, you only need a high school diploma and phlebotomy training through an accredited program. Typically, this program requires you to complete a certificate program. Most community colleges offer phlebotomy programs.
How hard will it be to find a job when I graduate?
Several universities report an average placement rate of 90% for new graduates. The profession is growing much faster than most occupations, which leaves many opportunities available to new graduates.
How much can I make as a medical laboratory professional?
It really depends on which career path you pursue and your level of educational training. The average salary for a certified phlebotomist is $28,080, while pathologists earn $247,013 on average.
What is it like to work in a medical laboratory?
Most medical laboratory professionals work regular business hours, although some work evening and weekend hours to accommodate 24-hour hospital and healthcare facilities.

While working in the lab, you will wear protective gear, work with microscopes and computers and analyze specimens. This video provides a behind-the-scenes look at working in a medical laboratory.




You play a vital role in helping students find the career that’s right for them–their next. And we’d like to help you in your important work.

For students who enjoy science classes, have a sense of discovery and enjoy helping others, a career in laboratory medicine can be a great choice.

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career opportunities

check out the many exciting laboratory careers by years of education required.

2 years or less


Works face-to-face with patients to draw blood samples

medical laboratory technician

Conducts tests that influence doctors’ treatment decisions


Processes tissue biopsies removed during surgery and prepares tiny sections of body tissues for microscopic examination by a pathologist

>4 years

medical laboratory scientist

Studies patients’ specimens to help doctors diagnose and treat diseases

Pathologists’ Assistant

Provides the hands-on assistance that pathologists need to help patients


Prepares tissue samples to help pathologists diagnose diseases


Examines cells to find cancer and infections

Technologist in Blood Banking

Performs both routine and specialized tests in blood banking and performs transfusion services

Technologist in chemistry

Performs routine tests for service and/or research and performs quality control tests

Technologist in cytogenetics

Looks into genes to find the diseases of tomorrow

Technologist in hematology

Performs tests to identify diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues

Technologist in Molecular Biology

Performs the analysis and diagnosis of genetic and infectious diseases

Technologist in Microbiology

Identifies bacteria and microorganisms in tissue samples and body fluids

>8 years


The doctor who diagnoses diseases at the microscopic level

clinical chemist

Guides doctors toward new, better ways to diagnose patients