What Does a Medical Laboratory Technician Do?

A medical laboratory technician is a vital member of the healthcare team. They perform tests on blood and other body fluids to help diagnose, treat, and prevent disease.

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Job Description

A Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) is a vital part of the healthcare team. They perform tests on blood and tissues to help diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. MLTs may work in hospitals, clinics, or reference laboratories.


A medical laboratory technician (MLT) is a healthcare professional who performs tests on blood, tissues, and other body fluids. The results of these tests help doctors diagnose and treat diseases.

MLTs typically work in hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic laboratories. They may also work in research settings or in the pharmaceutical industry.

Most MLTs have an associate’s degree from an accredited MLT program. Some MLTs may choose to pursue certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

The duties of an MLT vary depending on their workplace, but generally include the following:
-Collecting blood, tissue, and bodily fluid samples from patients
-Preparing samples for testing
-Running tests on samples using special laboratory equipment
-Analyzing test results and preparing reports
-Maintaining accurate patient records


Skills that a medical laboratory technician should have:
-The ability to work independently
-The ability to work accurately with attention to detail
-Good organizational and time management skills
-The ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing
-Computer literacy
-The ability to maintain confidentiality
-A team player

Work Environment

Most medical laboratory technicians work in hospitals, reference laboratories, physician’s offices, or other healthcare facilities. They may also work in public health or research laboratories. Some medical laboratory technicians travel to patients’ homes to collect specimens or perform tests.


Medical laboratory technicians (MLTs) work in many different settings, including hospitals, private laboratories, and blood banks. They may work in clinics, research laboratories, or pharmaceutical companies. Most MLTs work full time.

In small laboratories, MLTs may do many different tasks and may work with several types of instruments. In larger laboratories, MLTs usually specialize in one area, such as microbiology, immunology, clinical chemistry, or hematology.

Most MLTs work in settings where they have contact with patients. They may explain procedures to patients and answer their questions.


Most medical laboratory technicians work full time. Some work evening and night shifts, weekends, or holidays. Health care services are needed at all times, so many hospitals and other facilities offer 24-hour services.

Education and Training

Most medical laboratory technicians have an associate’s degree from a community college or vocational-technical school. A few programs leading to a bachelor’s degree also are available, but they are not as common. Many technicians learn through on-the-job training, which typically lasts about 1 year.


ASCP Board of Certification (BOC) offers the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) credential. To be eligible for the MLT credential, candidates must have completed a minimum of an associate’s degree in medical laboratory technology or science from a regionally accredited institution AND must have completed an accredited clinical laboratory training program OR have a minimum of two years full-time equivalent experienced working as a certified MLT. Candidates must also pass a certification exam.


Medical laboratory technicians earned a median annual salary of $51,770 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical laboratory technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $43,040, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $61,180, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 348,000 people were employed in the U.S. as medical laboratory technicians.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for medical laboratory technicians is very good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14% growth in employment for MLTs between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by an aging population and advances in medical technology, which require more sophisticated diagnostic testing. As a result, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities will need more trained personnel to perform these tests.

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