How Do You Advance in Medical Laboratory Science?

The medical laboratory science field has many opportunities for advancement and growth. I started out as a Medical Laboratory Technician and over the last five years I have been on the safety committee, obtained a Medical Laboratory Scientist certification and am now the Lead in the Chemistry department. I worked hard and pushed myself to get these positions. I also tried to improve in the areas that I was weak in and asked for more responsibility in order to expand my skills. I will talk about some of the opportunities for advancement in the laboratory.

The following list is ways you can advance in the lab:Medical Laboratory Science

  1. Become a MLS
  2. Lead of a department or shift
  3. Specialist in particular subject
  4. Technical Supervisor
  5. Manager of the Lab

I graduated from a Medical Laboratory Technician program a few years ago. After working and gaining the valuable experience I needed, I decided that I would go after the Medical Laboratory Scientist certification. There were many reasons that I decided to take the test. I knew if I wanted to move up in any capacity in the laboratory that I would need to obtain my MLS certification. Moving up from a MLT to a MLS does not automatically mean you will take on more responsibility. I was an MLS for 6 months without having more responsibility. One benefit of moving up to a MLS is that over the entirety of your career you will earn more money. My job responsibilities did not change when I switched to a MLS. I was doing the same work as a MLT. The only thing that changed for me was that I was able to take on more responsibility. Looking into which of the ASCP routes you can go through will be a great place to start if you have any interest in becoming an MLS.

After obtaining your MLS certification you can take small steps on gaining more experience and responsibility in the lab. Talking to your boss is a great way to get different tasks to perform. I was asked to be on the safety committee. I informed my fellow employees of any safety concerns that were brought to my attention. Another task I was assigned that allowed me to get more experience and to move up in the lab was to take responsibility of two different analyzers. The lab that I am working at received two new analyzers and my boss asked me to take the lead on getting these up and running. That meant I had to read the operators manual and learn how they worked ad explain what I learned to my fellow workers. I learned how to maintain the instruments and how to run quality controls too. It was a tough process, but I learned a lot. This did not necessarily advance my career but it proved to my boss that I was serious about moving up into a higher position. I don’t think without obtaining my MLS certification that I would have been asked to take on such responsibility.

The next step after you become a MLS is to go after a Lead position. Most Lead positions require that you have your MLS certification. Lead duties entail assigning work for the department, guiding members on certain tasks and being able to perform work assignments given out by the supervisor. Some of the specific tasks I have been assigned since I have taken over the Lead position in the chemistry department include updating lot numbers, changing the means and standard deviations for particular tests and running correlation studies with new lot numbers. I am also in charge of maintaining the analyzers and making sure that we have enough supplies to operate each day. I also train students and any new employees we have. The Lead position is someone the boss can share important information with and then will disseminate that information out to the other employees. The Lead position is a great way to get valuable experience if you want to move up to a technical supervisor or to a lab manager.

One step above a Lead position is a Technical Specialist. These positions are specialized positions. The Technologist Specialist will have a MLS certificate along with a specialized certificate in Blood Banking or Chemistry or other discipline. The specialized exam can be taken through the ASCP. It is an exam strictly on whatever subject you have chosen to specialize in. We have a Technologist Specialist with a Hematology specialty at our hospital and he specializes in many things but in particular identifying immature white blood cells. When we have a difficult slide to examine he will look it over and decipher what cells that he sees. He also looks over the hematology department and is a support to the workers in the department. He trains many people a year and offers to retrain anyone who needs extra help.

If you seek a higher position than a Lead or a Technical Specialist the position of Lab Manager or Lab Supervisor are two positions that will allow you to advance in the laboratory field. The lab manager and supervisor work on the schedules, maintain communication between employees, and make sure that the lab has everything it needs to function. People in these positions will rarely work on the bench but they can fill in when needed. All of the supervisors and bosses throughout my experience and throughout my company are currently medical laboratory scientists. My current lab has both a Manager and Supervisor. Our Manager works on doing the schedules and interacting with the employees while our Supervisor works on quality control and any analyzer errors.

There are other opportunities for growth outside of the lab if you want to advance outside of the laboratory. Some other options for advancement include working at a research or forensic laboratory. There is also a need for Medical Laboratory Technicians and Medical Laboratory Scientists to work as support specialist for the analyzers that the laboratory has. They are responsible for replacing parts, troubleshooting problems, and performing yearly maintenance. Many of the support specialists are former or current MLT’s. Lastly, if you like interacting with people and enjoy teaching maybe seeking a career as an instructor. Some of the larger hospitals have instructors on site to teach any new employees or students that come through the lab. All of these avenues require a base knowledge of the lab and all take experience to obtain.

There is a lot of room for advancement in the laboratory field. Like any job you need certain skills and dedication to do your job. Obtaining more education or more experience are two ways to advance you career. Actively seeking advancement and improving your areas of weakness are all great ways that show you are serious about advancing your career. Advancing in your career will not happen overnight and you will need to be patient. I was able to procure a Lead position by working hard, showing interest in my work and by asking for more responsibility. My last two yearly evaluations I have asked for more responsibility. The entire process asking for more responsibility to where I am now has taken three years. Take a look at your current situation and see if you can advance yourself. Work hard, show dedication to your current job, communicate with your boss frequently and never stop learning. By doing all of these things you will go far in the laboratory.


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