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Medical Laboratory Technologist

Medical laboratory technologists perform a variety of laboratory tests and procedures to assist physicians in diagnosing, monitoring, treating and preventing disease.

Also Known As:Biological Sciences Technologist, Health Care Technologist, Laboratory Technologist, Medical Technologist
NOC Number(s):3211.1
Minimum Education:2 years post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to above average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:M I O

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Medical Laboratory Technologist


Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

In general, medical laboratory technologists:

  • examine body fluids and tissues for abnormal chemical levels, cells or bacteria
  • prepare tissue for microscopic examination by pathologists
  • determine blood type for transfusions
  • conduct medical research and analyses
  • participate in quality assurance and quality control activities.

Medical laboratory technologists may specialize in the following areas:

  • clinical chemistry - chemically analysing blood and other body fluids
  • clinical microbiology - culturing and identifying micro-organisms and determining antibiotic sensitivities
  • hematology - studying blood cells and their formation in health and disease, and investigating coagulation factors and disorders
  • histotechnology - preparing tissue specimens for microscopic examination
  • transfusion medicine - taking and testing blood to determine its suitability for transfusions and preparing blood products
  • cytotechnology - microscopically examining prepared cellular slides for evidence of abnormality or disease
  • clinical genetics - analysing patient tissue to determine the presence of a pre-existing or neoplastic genetic condition.

Working Conditions

Medical laboratory technologists may perform a number of different activities, or they may specialize in a particular area. Those who work with infectious patients and samples or hazardous chemicals must take safety precautions to avoid infection or injury.

Working hours for medical laboratory technologists vary depending on the type of laboratory in which they work. Research laboratories usually operate weekdays only. In diagnostic clinical laboratories, technologists may work rotating shifts of days, evenings and nights including weekends and holidays.


Personal Characteristics

Medical laboratory technologists need the following characteristics:

  • integrity and a professional attitude
  • an aptitude for mathematics and science and a keen interest in scientific work
  • the ability to do detailed work and maintain a high level of accuracy
  • good colour and form perception (to study blood cells, etc.)
  • good communication and interpersonal skills
  • the ability to adapt easily and quickly to change.

They should enjoy taking a methodical approach to their work, analyzing results and establishing procedures, and using computers and specialized instruments for accurate and precise testing.


Educational Requirements

In Alberta, the following institutions offer medical laboratory programs that are at least two years in length:

  • The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton offers a two year Medical Laboratory Technology diploma program. The entrance requirement is a minimum of 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, Biology 30, Chemistry 30 and Pure or Applied Math 30, or equivalent. Applicants also must complete five or more credits of post-secondary Human Anatomy and Physiology or Human Physiology and a Medical Terminology course. Pre-requisite post-secondary courses must be completed within the last five years with a minimum 60 per cent. NAIT also offers a two year Cytotechnology diploma program.
  • The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary offers a two year Medical Laboratory Technology diploma program. The entrance requirements are a high school diploma or equivalent with at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, Chemistry 30, Biology 30 and Pure Math 30 (or 70 per cent in Applied Math 30) or Math 31. 
  • The University of Alberta in Edmonton offers a four year Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree program in Medical Laboratory Science. The entrance requirement is one pre-professional year of study with 30 credits in English, biology, chemistry and statistics (university level courses that generally require English Language Arts 30-1, Pure Math 30, Biology 30 and Chemistry 30 to qualify for admission). Candidates then apply to the University of Alberta to complete the second, third and fourth year in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. The third year is spent in practical laboratory training in Alberta Health Services laboratories and DynalifeDX Laboratories. Fourth year involves a research project and courses in advanced laboratory techniques. Graduates of this program are eligible to write American as well as Canadian certification exams.

Post-secondary institutions across Alberta offer university transfer programs that allow students to apply up to two years of study toward university bachelor's degree programs. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that the courses they choose to take will be accepted for credit at the institution to which they wish to transfer.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised August 2012

Related Legislation

Under Alberta's Health Professions Act and Medical Laboratory Technologists Profession Regulation, registration with the Alberta College of Medical Laboratory Technologists (ACMLT) is mandatory if you meet identified competency requirements and conduct laboratory tests that are used by other registered members to provide professional services directly to the public, teach the practice of the profession to members or students of the profession, or supervise registered members who provide services to the public. Only registered members may call themselves Medical Laboratory Technologists. Laboratory workers who are not registered (regulated) may provide pre or post medical laboratory services.

To find more information on the certification process see Medical Laboratory Technologist Registration Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Section revised June 2013

Employment and Advancement

Graduates of technical and degree programs are employed in:

  • hospital laboratories
  • public health departments
  • pharmaceutical laboratories
  • veterinary research clinics
  • agricultural, industrial, government or private laboratories
  • post-secondary institutions
  • scientific supply companies.

In smaller clinical laboratories, technologists perform general duties in all sections of the laboratory. In large labs, they may perform general duties or specialize in a particular area.

Advancement opportunities depend on ability and qualifications (experience and education).

Medical laboratory technologists are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 3211: Medical Laboratory Technologists and Pathologists' Assistants.  In Alberta, 94 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 1,100 Albertans are employed in the Medical Laboratory Technologists and Pathologists' Assistants occupational group which is expected to have an annual above average growth of 3.5 per cent from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta. It is forecasted that about 39 new positions will be created each year in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. (Note: Since medical laboratory technologists form only a part of the larger occupational group on which this forecast is based, only a portion of the new positions created will be for medical laboratory technologists.)

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013

Salary

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Medical Laboratory Technologists and Pathologists' Assistants occupational group earned on average from $29.85 to $42.84 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $37.17 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website: www.alis.alberta.ca/edinfo

Alberta College of Medical Laboratory Technologists website: www.acmlt.org

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website: www.hsaa.ca


Related Occupational Profiles
Biological Technician
Canadian Forces Personnel - Non Commissioned
Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist
Cytotechnologist
Medical Laboratory Assistant
Pathologist's Assistant

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; Health, Recreation and Human Services (Health Care Services); Mathematics; and Science (Biology; and Chemistry)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Health Care and Medical Sciences

Produced July 2010
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services