Exploring Career Options in Medical Laboratory Science

Medical laboratory science is a broad field that applies hands-on, laboratory-based skills to numerous disciplines. In this episode of Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory Scientist, the following individuals discuss how to navigate career opportunities related to the medical laboratory:

  • Neil Greene, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor and director of the Medical Laboratory Science Program at the University of Rhode Island.
  • Wilson Vientos, M.S., MT(ASCP)SM, microbiology supervisor at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.
  • Justine Chelette, MLS(ASCP), a teacher in the health department at Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College and a clinical microbiologist at Rhode Island Hospital.

Key Takeaways from the Episode

Medical laboratory science involves applying the theory and practice of science to health care. Professionals in this field perform and analyze a variety of laboratory-based tests on diverse patient specimens to inform medical decisions, such as the diagnosis and treatment of disease. For example, laboratory testing can be used to detect cancer, infectious disease (e.g. mono, pneumonia, COVID-19, syphilis, etc.), anemia, diabetes, heart disease and blood clotting disorders, to name just a few.

In addition, medical laboratory scientists help prepare blood or blood products for transfusions in the case of trauma, for example. Medical laboratory science encompasses numerous specialty areas, including (but not limited to): blood banking, chemistry, hematology, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology and urinalysis. Given the academic and technical training inherent to medical laboratory science, individuals in this field are also prepared for future opportunities in other areas, like education, pharmaceutical research, medical writing, medical illustration and clinical research.

Could Medical Laboratory Science be the right fit for you?

Individuals interested in pursuing a career in medical laboratory science often start out with an interest in anatomy, biology, chemistry or a related scientific discipline. They are usually hands-on problem solvers that welcome the challenge of solving complex puzzles, and they like to help others. Therefore, a career in medical laboratory science can be a rewarding profession that bridges one’s passion for science with their passion for the health and wellbeing of others.

Scientist looking through microscope
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Getting Started

There are several pathways to pursuing a career in medical laboratory science. A popular pathway is to complete a program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS). NAACLS programs prepare students to complete examinations to obtain national certification in these areas, as administered by such agencies as the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).

Those interested in joining a NAACLS program can pursue a program to become either a Medical Laboratory Technician (associate degree) or a Medical Laboratory Scientist (bachelor’s degree). Alternatively, those interested in the career can major in biological science, chemistry or a related field and obtain certification through one of the other routes offered by ASCP.

Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory Scientist is a twice-quarterly discussion on career advancement in clinical and public health laboratories. Members of ASM’s Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) will invite guests from clinical and public health microbiology laboratories to discuss topics specific to the laboratory. The CMMS’ goal is to help others learn more about the profession and advance their careers in the clinical or public health microbiology laboratory.

The CMMS provides career advancement activities for those new to the field of clinical or public health microbiology. Its roster of mentors is available to answer any career advancement questions you have.

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