Medical laboratory scientists perform the tests that help determine the causes and cures of diseases by using reagents, chemicals, and complex instruments to test blood, body fluids, and tissues. Because the tests performed are so vital in medical treatment, the medical laboratory scientist must know not only how to perform these tests with scientific precision and accuracy, but must be well educated in the underlying scientific principles.
In addition to performing laboratory tests using the latest biomedical technology, MLS professionals also assist to interpret test results in conjunction with patient information, and communicate their meaning to other healthcare team members. They monitor quality, research and develop new tests and methods, and supervise personnel. The principle areas of practice in the laboratory are chemistry, hematology, microbiology, urinalysis, immunohematology and immunology. Career opportunities exist in hospital, clinic and private laboratories, research, public health, sales and marketing, consulting, health administration and education.
In order to successfully fulfill the role of a medical laboratory scientist, an individual must possess minimal mental and physical requirements including:
- Have reading, mathematics, and writing skills;
- Be able to communicate verbally;
- Have eye-hand coordination and finger dexterity;
- Be able to stand for extended periods of time;
- Be able to lift/carry up to 50 lbs. to waist level;
- Have corrected vision and hearing to normal range;
- Be able to work in highly stressful situations under time constraints;
- Have good color vision;
- Be willing to work in situations where the risk of exposure to blood and blood-borne pathogens is high.
Students pursuing medical laboratory science should have an interest and aptitude in the sciences, particularly chemistry and biology. Laboratory work plays a vital role in the daily routine of the medical laboratory scientist, and while direct patient contact is limited, these individuals enjoy being a part of the healthcare team that provides the physician with information crucial to the diagnosis and treatment of the patient's medical problem. Students who become certified Medical Laboratory Scientists find employment throughout the United States.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics , "employment of medical laboratory workers is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2018, as the volume of lab tests continues to increase with both population growth and the development of new tests." Mean annual earnings is $58,640 (www.bls.gov; "National Occupational Wage Estimates", May 2012).