The practice of medicine relies heavily upon the information obtained through performing clinical laboratory tests. Laboratory testing plays a critical role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease. More than 80 percent of a physician's decisions regarding a patient's diagnosis and treatment are based on laboratory test results. The role of the medical laboratory scientist is to ensure the accuracy and validity of these test results.
The MLS uses complex biomedical instruments, often interfaced with computers, to analyze blood, body fluids and tissues. These lab professionals monitor quality of laboratory results, recognize testing errors, and detect and correct problems that may occur during the testing process. They help research and develop new methods for testing and evaluate new instruments. They may be involved with teaching other health care professionals and training laboratory staff. Some may become supervisors, giving guidance and direction to both technical and support personnel. Others may choose to become managers, taking responsibility for budgeting, staffing, productivity, quality management, problem resolution, planning and more.
There are many advantages to entering the profession of medical laboratory science:
Employment opportunities abound for medical laboratory scientists. Once certified, one may choose to work in microbiology, clinical chemistry, hematology, blood bank or molecular diagnostics. Some graduates enjoy working in all areas as a generalist.
Jobs are available not only in hospital laboratories, but also in physicians' offices, public health facilities, industry, sales, marketing and research. MLSs may continue their education and advance to positions in health administration or elect to pursue graduate studies to become physicians, veterinarians, physician assistants, pathologists' assistants and more.
The MLS is an individual with a baccalaureate degree in medical laboratory science. The education includes both college courses and clinical courses with clinical experiences.
There are several curriculum options:
There are many colleges and universities that offer the MLS major. Contact the college or university of choice for information on the major and its requirements.
Graduates usually become certified as a medical laboratory scientist when they have completed the education requirements. Certification is beneficial and a requirement for many job opportunities and for post-graduate study. National certification is recognized in all states and identifies, to employers, the competence of the job applicant.
The organization that provides certification opportunities for medical laboratory scientists is the American Society for Clinical Pathology—Board of Certification.
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