Medical Laboratory Sciences

Field description

Medical laboratory testing plays a crucial role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease in patients. Laboratory tests help determine the presence, extent, or absence of disease and monitor the effectiveness of treatment. An estimated 60 percent to 70 percent of all decisions regarding a patient's diagnosis and treatment, hospital admission and discharge are based on laboratory test results.

Medical laboratory scientists (also referred to as clinical laboratory technologists or medical technologists) and clinical laboratory technicians (also known as medical laboratory technicians) perform most laboratory tests.

Medical laboratory scientists analyze test results and relay them to physicians. They perform complex chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic and bacteriological tests, requiring significant analytical and independent judgment.

Medical laboratory scientists perform a wide variety of functions including:

  • Microscopic examination and analysis of blood, body fluids (e.g., urine, peritoneal fluid, cerebrospinal fluid), tissues and cells
  • Identification of bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms
  • Analysis of body fluids for chemical analytes such as glucose and cholesterol
  • Cross match blood for transfusion
  • Monitor patient outcomes
  • Perform differential cell counts looking for abnormal cells to aid in the diagnosis of anemia and leukemia
  • Utilize sophisticated equipment and instruments which can perform a number of tests simultaneously, as well as microscopes, cell counters, and other high-precision laboratory equipment
  • Write standardized operating procedures, and establish quality assurance programs to monitor and ensure the accuracy of test results

Career opportunities

The job forecast for medical laboratory science graduates is very positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment of medical laboratory scientists is expected to grow by 14 percent between 2008 and 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. The volume of laboratory tests continues to increase with both population growth and the development of new types of tests."

Medical laboratory scientists' analytical, scientific and technical skills are a valuable and desired asset for employment opportunities. At Mayo Clinic, medical laboratory scientists interested in advancement opportunities may choose from several tracks:

  • Development
  • Technical
  • Education
  • Quality
  • Management

Earnings potential

Mayo Clinic offers competitive salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual earnings of medical laboratory technologists were $60,180 in May 2011. The middle 50 percent earned between $58,580 and $64,610.

Professional organizations

Sept. 29, 2016