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Field description

Cytotechnology is the microscopic study of cells for evidence of disease, such as cancer. Many other conditions, including viral and bacterial infections, also are identified using cytological techniques.

The field is perhaps best known for the Pap test, an evaluation of cells from the uterine cervix, but cytotechnology techniques can identify precancerous or cancer cells in virtually any area of the body.

Cytotechnologists evaluate cell samples that have been shed normally, scraped from the body or aspirated with a fine needle. Cytotechnologists are trained to notice subtle changes in cells, so they can accurately identify precancerous, malignant and infectious conditions.

In recent years, new diagnostic and prognostic tests and technologies have been developed that have created new opportunities for cytotechnologists. This has necessitated expanded knowledge in areas of molecular diagnostics.

If you enjoy independent, meticulous, microscopic work, and are comfortable with a high degree of responsibility, cytotechnology can provide great career satisfaction in a vital health care role.

Career opportunities

Career opportunities for cytotechnologists are good. Jobs are open in both rural and metropolitan areas in all regions of the country. Positions are available in diagnostic cytology, as well as in research, education and administration.

Cytotechnologists are employed in hospital laboratories, universities and private laboratories. After further study, you may advance to positions such as supervisor or educator. Opportunities in research, particularly on subjects pertinent to clinical diagnosis, may be available depending on where you are employed.

The Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences Cytotechnology Program has a 100 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent employment rate within six months of graduation (averaged over three years).

Earnings potential

According to a 2013 wage survey of laboratories conducted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, average hourly pay for cytotechnologists ranges from $31.45 for staff cytotechnologists to $37.09 for cytotechnologist supervisors and managers. The average annual salary ranges from $64,416 to $82,556 a year depending on the job level.

Professional organizations

March 15, 2017