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. An expanded curriculum has been developed for those interested in continuing their education.
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.
Choose a program
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.
According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology, median hourly pay for cytotechnologists ranges from $16.70 to $24 per hour. A survey conducted by Wage Web found the average annual salary in cytotechnology was $41,560.
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