What Does a Medical Technologist Do? (With Salary and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Medical technologists play an important role in assisting physicians and other medical professionals in the treatment of patients. They often work in laboratory settings and specialise in areas such as toxicology, immunology, cytology, genetics, haematology and blood banking. There are several educational and skill requirements that help you to become a medical technologist. In this article, we answer the question, 'What does a medical technologist do?' and we discuss their salary, the requirements for the role and how to start your career as one.

What does a medical technologist do?

To understand what does a medical technologist do, it's important to learn about their daily duties. They conduct tests in a laboratory environment and record data according to established laboratory protocols. They may use automated technologies and specialised instruments to finish the test and analyse the results while preparing specimens for evaluation. They also diagnose, debug and repair laboratory equipment.

Some common duties of medical technologists may include:

  • verifying that the test result matches the supplied specimen

  • performing tests on tissue, fluids and blood

  • collaborating closely with laboratory supervisors or physicians when dealing with patient data

  • determining the cell count, blood type, chemical content or drug levels in a particular specimen

  • looking for the presence of certain parasites, micro-organisms or bacteria in a given specimen

What do medical technologists earn?

Medical technicians' salaries are dependent on their level of professional experience, industry expertise and education. The average salary for a medical technologist is $3,120 per month. This figure may vary greatly depending on the employer's organisation size and type.

What are the requirements to be a medical technologist?

Certain education, qualification, licensing and training requirements apply to medical technicians. It's essential to take the following requirements into account when considering whether to pursue a role in medical technology:

Education

A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for medical technologists. You may also consider obtaining a master's degree to negotiate a higher earning potential and progress more rapidly in your career. Biomedical science, life sciences, clinical microbiology, clinical laboratory science, laboratory medicine, medical laboratory technology or a related discipline are examples of degree disciplines that you may consider pursuing. A degree also permits you to specialise in fields like enzymology, virology, protein chemistry and computer-based instrumentation.

Throughout such courses, you can expect to study various topics such as anatomy, laboratory management, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, clinical microbiology, immunology and statistics. The coursework usually puts an emphasis on laboratory skills such as lab management and safety procedures. These degrees equip students to enter the area of medical technology immediately after graduation. Those with master's degrees are more likely to become laboratory directors, so it may be worth pursuing post-graduate education if you want to progress in this career.

Practical learning

Students get a fundamental understanding of medical technology procedures in the classroom and laboratory. Internships are generally completed in the second part of the course. They allow students to acquire practical experience in a laboratory environment. Under the supervision of trained laboratory experts, they learn how to handle specimens, run tests and evaluate results.

Training and certification

Medical technologists frequently undergo on-the-job training and work closely with professionals in the field. This training is in place to guarantee that the aspiring medical technologist can perform in a real-life and high-pressure setting. The training programme usually includes laboratory practice in both medical and clinical laboratories. The length of training varies with the employer.

Depending on your exact role and degree of expertise, it's important that you obtain a licence or certificate, such as the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certification. You can earn this certificate through a local university. Earning certifications can also help you to establish your proficiency in the area, perhaps enhance your earning potential and broaden your work possibilities.

What skills are beneficial for medical technologists

In your role as a medical technologist, it's essential that you possess and cultivate a variety of skills to help you to excel in your career, including:

Communication skills

Medical technologists frequently collaborate with other laboratory specialists to deliver shared objectives. As such, excellent communication skills are essential to exchange information and ideas clearly and accurately. It's important for medical technologists to be able to deliver instructions, explain methods and present findings and outcomes. It's also crucial for medical technologists to be able to communicate well in writing to write clear reports and present results effectively.

Teamwork

Laboratories are usually collaborative environments and laboratory professionals frequently work in groups. Strong cooperation is essential since it can help to prevent mistakes. A co-worker, for instance, can supervise or double-check your work to ensure that you follow correct processes. This team-based inspection method helps to hold laboratory personnel accountable for their work while also encouraging professional development.

Related: What Is Teamwork? (Plus Skills and Examples of Teamwork)

Attention to detail

Handling samples and specimens is one of the most crucial responsibilities of a medical technologist. They may be managing many samples at the same time. As such it's crucial that medical technologists pay close attention to detail to ensure that they label everything accurately and perform tests correctly. Medical technologists also require detail-orientation to manage and deal with needles and delicate laboratory instruments with care and precision. A slight error can result in major ramifications and problems, so attention to detail is vital to ensure the smooth, safe running of the laboratory.

Related: How to Improve Attention to Detail Skills

Emotional intelligence

Medical technologists with emotional intelligence can empathise with their patients. They can understand why patients may have worries about getting tests and obtaining medical treatment. It's also helpful if they can listen to the concerns of other medical professionals on the team, which can improve teamwork and make the work atmosphere more productive.

Time management

Medical technologists may conduct a range of tests that may take a whole day or even several days to complete. It's important that they can manage their time effectively to finish each test, record results and report findings on schedule. This might entail making a calendar with a timetable for each sample's progress.

Related: How to Manage Time (With 23 Time Management Tips and Advice)

Organisational skills

To prevent errors, it's important that medical technologists organise their time and workplace. It's vital that their workspace is clean and organised so that they can readily reach tools and machines. It's also important that medical technologists maintain samples and specimens in an orderly fashion so that they can conduct the tests efficiently and accurately. Keeping electronic files organised is another significant skill.

Related: What Are Organisational Skills and How Can You Develop Them?

Physical stamina

As a medical technologist, you can expect to stand on your feet for extended periods to collect and analyse samples. Because of this, it's important that you possess sufficient physical stamina. This is also essential as it may be necessary to turn and lift patients with a disability to collect certain samples for testing.

What is the work environment of a medical technologist?

Medical technologists usually work in diagnostic laboratories, hospitals or clinics where they perform a variety of tests on patient samples. These range from bodily fluids to skin tissue. As a medical technologist, you can expect to stand and move while working with equipment. You may also sit for extended periods while working on a computer.

In a typical laboratory setting, you may utilise various tools and pieces of equipment. You may also deal with potentially harmful materials. To do this safely, it's important that you're familiar with and always observe safety and health requirements. These may include wearing protective clothing such as goggles, gloves and closed-toe shoes.

Medical technologist job description example

Here's an example job description to help you better understand this role:

The Simple Clinic is looking for a medical technologist to join our team. The role-holder reports directly to the director and works with a team of three technicians and two assistants.

Responsibilities include:

  • preparing cultures of tissue samples

  • establishing and monitoring programmes

  • ensuring data accuracy

  • examining slides of bodily fluids microscopically

  • cross-matching blood for transfusions

  • looking for components in fluid

  • validating lab reports for accuracy

  • calibrating and operating equipment

  • delivering results to fellow researchers, patients and other medical professionals.

Educational requirements:

  • minimum of a bachelor of science in medical technology, chemistry, life sciences or clinical microbiology

  • at least four years of work experience as a medical technician

While working hours are flexible, on-call availability and night shifts may be necessary. It's important for the medical technologist to be comfortable using protective equipment such as latex gloves, surgical masks and laboratory gloves.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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