Career Options for the Medical Lab Assistant

Before making a career decision in 2020, stop for a moment and think. What factors have you considered yet? Only the salary? Better not, because there are other crucial factors to consider before making the most important decision of your life.

  • Is the job secure? Even in situations like COVID-19 pandemic could you make your living out of it?
  • What are the prospects and growth opportunities?
  • Working hours and environment
  • Salary structure and real value. How do people perceive that profession?
  • And most of all- Do you like the job?

Some people find utmost happiness helping others and taking care of them. So, they take noble professions and become a doctor, nurse, teacher, babysitter etc. Medical lab assistants or medical lab technicians do not help people directly but treating patients is almost impossible today without lab tests and reports. They provide indirect patient care but still are vital members of a medical team.

Current labour market information says you can earn a starting wage of around £15,000 a year as a laboratory technician in the UK. Experienced lab technicians can earn up to around £25,000, and once you’re highly experienced you can earn £30,000 or more.

If you like the idea of helping patients and want to work in the healthcare field but prefer a calm and quiet place then a medical lab assistant job is perfect for you. Follow the whole article and you will know-

  • what does a medical technician actually do
  • what are the career options for a medical lab technician and
  • how to become a medical lab technician

What does a Medical Lab Assistant Do?

A medical lab assistant always works behind the scene. They analyse samples of body tissue and fluids taken from patients including blood, urine and faeces. But in some cases they take the samples from the patients and work directly with them.

So, a medical lab assistant’s job includes collection of samples from the hospital patients and performing routine medical laboratory tests to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Medical Lab Assistant

Role of a medical lab assistant includes-

  • receiving and checking samples
  • keeping and filing records up
  • making up chemical solutions
  • phlebotomy/venepuncture
  • cleaning and disinfecting equipments
  • labeling and sorting samples
  • separating blood serum and plasma
  • check information and documents
  • loading and operating machines
  • preparing and analysing quality control materials
  • disposing of chemical or biological wastes
  • storing data in computer system
  • making report of test results
  • answering enquiries

6 Career Options for Medical Lab Assistants

Medical laboratory assistants may specialize in one laboratory area or may work in a range of different areas. We are going to discuss 6 different career options you can choose from. None of them is more important than another and many responsibilities are similar in several jobs. But the study and research to become a lab assistant differ from one another. Based on your personal interest you can choose the right career.

  • 1. Clinical Chemistry
Clinical Chemistry Lab

Clinical chemistry is generally concerned with analysing bodily fluids like blood and other biological materials to diagnose disease and providing treatment. Medical lab assistants or MLAs perform these tests and analysis in a medical lab. Although some MLAs may work independently most of them work in a clinic or diagnostic company.

 

Lab assistants perform a wide variety of tasks but one individual does not require to do all of them. You may need to collect samples from the patients, label the samples and store them for tests, record and store patient information, keep lab equipment clean and ready, help the scientist/technologist to perform critical analysis and research.

You will also use various equipment and computer programs to perform tests and analyse the data. After that a lab scientist may need to review the findings of the tests.

Educational Requirement

To become a medical lab assistant you will need an associate degree. You can start working after completing level 2 or level 3 diploma but a laboratory technologist/scientist needs to have a bachelor’s degree. Both degrees include study on biological science, medical equipment, chemistry, computer technology, statistics etc.

There are some short-term certificate courses too. You can take an online or offline course which fits your career goal. More education increases your chance to be hired as a medical lab assistant.

Career Prospects

Qualified students will be able to work in private laboratories, hospitals, community health clinics, public health facilities, biotechnology companies etc. You may look into reed or other online portals for a medical lab assistant job.

Usually a medical laboratory assistant starts their career with an average salary of £15,000 a year. If you are experienced and have extra qualification you can earn up to £24,000 a year. Experienced lab assistants in the UK get around £30,000.

Skills You Need

To get hired and become a successful medical lab assistant you need the following skill-

  • communication skill
  • knowledge of chemistry & biology
  • focus on details
  • ability to use your initiative
  • ability to work well with others
  • computer knowledge
  • basic mathematics and analytical skills
  • 2. Dental Lab Assistant
Dental Lab Assistant

Dental lab assistants work in dental labs and assist dentists and orthodontists. A dental lab assistant is responsible for maintenance and improvement of a patient’s oral health according to the dentist prescription. Their responsibilities include-

  • replacing natural teeth ny constructing partial or full dentures
  • restoring natural teeth by fabricating crowns and bridges
  • manufacturing fixed and removable appliances for dental irregularities
  • implantology procedures
  • replacing missing facial tissues due to injury, disease or developmental abnormality
  • following dentist’s instructions to make prostheses, dental appliances and wax replicas as necessary
  • documentation by completing forms, reports, logs, records etc.
  • maintaining necessary supplies and equipments
Educational Requirement

You need to complete a diploma or apprenticeship to become a dental lab assistant. Apprenticeship requires at least five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) including English, Math and Science. You can do a foundation or diploma degree in dental technology approved by the dental council. Online short courses are another option for a good foundation. More information

Career Prospects

Dental lab assistants may work in private dental clinics, hospitals and other private labs. Annual salary of a starter is around £24,000 and it can be more than £40,000 when you are an experienced dental lab assistant. Working hours per week is 39 to 41 hours.

Skills You Need

To start a career as a dental lab assistant you need-

  • artistic instincts and attention to detail
  • hand-eye coordination
  • critical thinking ability
  • critical thinking ability
  • colour perception
  • independent work drive
  • quality control analysis
  • communication & monitoring skill
  • social perceptiveness
  • 3. Haematology
Haematology

Haematology is the branch of medicine where blood and its components are tested and studied for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease related to blood. It includes testing and counting different blood cells, identifying abnormalities and estimating haemoglobin levels, examining blood proteins, bone marrow, platelets, blood vessels etc.

Haematology technician may assist in-

  • treating bleeding disorders such as hemophilia
  • treating hematological malignancies such as lymphoma and leukemia (cancers)
  • treating hemoglobinopathies
  • blood transfusion and the work of a blood bank
  • bone marrow and stem cell transplantation
Educational Requirement

To become a haematology technician you will need-

  • a university/college degree
  • TQUK accredited training course from an authorized platform
  • an apprenticeship
Career Prospects

In the UK a haematology technician earns £16,000-£36,00 a year. Typically works 38-40 hours a week and he may need to work on holidays if needed.

Haematology technicians can study further and become a haematology scientist. But to become a haematology scientist you need to have good communication and organizational skills, problem identification and resolution capabilities and high attention to details.

  • 4. Cytogenetic Technician
Cytogenetic Technician

Cytogenetics involves the study of chromosomes and the data helps to understand patients mental condition, birth defect, infertility, cancer, miscarriage etc. Cytogenetic technicians analyse the structure of chromosomes found in various biological specimens and relate them to a variety of diseases.

 

As a cytogenetic technician you will also maintain detailed notes for each sample and prepare a database. The work is completed in a medical facility or research institution and involves complex laboratory equipment including fluorescent microscopes, dropping pipettes, microscope slide racks and DNA sequence analyser.

Cytogenetic technicians work under a lab manager or supervisor and he is a member of a cytogenetic team.

Educational Requirement

Generally a college diploma in cytotechnology, biological science or genetics is required to become a cytogenetic technician. But you can also start this profession after a level 3 diploma and apprenticeship under direct supervision of an expert cytotechnologist.

Most programmes on this topic contain clinical aspects where you will gain hands-on experiences under an expert. Professionals working as a cytogenetic technician can also take online diploma courses to become more efficient and increase professional growth. But it is recommended you attend an accredited programme.

Career Prospects

Completing graduation from an accredited programme in cytotechnology and graining relevant experience these professionals can find employment in private medical laboratories, research facilities and hospital laboratories.

A cytogenetic technician earns a mean annual salary of £32,000 and works 38-40 hours a week.

Skills You Need

After successful completion of your diploma or apprenticeship you should have the following skills:

  • Ability to set-up and operate complex laboratory equipments
  • Analytical and scientific competencies
  • Ability to set-up and operate complex laboratory equipments
  • Ability to use database system and softwares
  • Communication skills
  • 5. Histotechnician
Histotechnician

Laboratory technicians who study the minute structures of biological material and determine how they are structurally, biologically and functionally related to each other are the histotechnicians. They actually assist to find out how biochemistry, molecular biology and physiology are related with different diseases and other biological processes.

Educational Requirement

You need to be good at chemistry, biology, mathematics and computer science to become a histotechnician. After high school you need to attend a histotechnician degree programme accredited by NHS and TQUK

You may attend a community college or an online diploma programme.

Career Prospects

You will need to be certified to start a histotechnician career. A certified histotechnician can work in private research laboratories, hospitals or other medical facilities.

An expert histotechnician earns around £42,000 a year in the UK.

Skills you need

As a histotechnician you will have to-

  • Identify and analyse difficult problems
  • Collect samples and store them properly
  • Setup and operate lab equipments
  • Communicate effectively
  • Make sound decisions
  • Understand and maintain tissue staining protocols
  • 6. Nuclear Medicine Technician
Nuclear Medicine Technician

Nuclear medicine technicians perform imaging tests to help the doctors identify the exact abnormalities in the body. The process is not very complex but you will need to be very careful because of radiation hazard. The process includes giving the patient a tiny amount of radioactive material and then using specialized equipment to record images of particular organs.

 

As a nuclear medicine technician you will perform the following responsibilities-

  • Inspect and prepare equipments
  • Administer the radiopharmaceutical material
  • Communicating with the patients and explaining the procedure
  • Recording the images of particular organs
Educational Requirement

An associate degree is required to enter this profession. If you have a degree in biology or science you can also apply for an apprenticeship.

Career Prospects

After completing your diploma or apprenticeship you can easily start your career as a nuclear medicine technician. Diagnostic labs, private hospitals and public health care facilities hire nuclear medicine technicians on a permanent basis. Annual earning starts from £18,000 and it may extend to £43,000 based on skills and experience.

There are some risks in this job. You may be exposed to radiation and infectious diseases. So, it is mandatory to take measures and maintain all the protocols before performing nuclear imaging tests.

Skills You Need

A nuclear medicine technician must have to following skills-

  • Attention to details when performing and recording imaging processes
  • Technical skills to operate heavy equipments
  • Decision-making capability
  • Communication skills

How to Become a Medical Lab Assistant

Becoming a medical lab assistant is easier than you think. You can get into this profession through-

  • A university degree
  • A college course/ online diploma
  • An apprenticeship

University Degree

You could do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or professional course on-

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Forensic science

Entry Requirement

  • 5 GCSEs at grade 9 to 4 or equivalent including English, math and science
  • 3 A levels or equivalent
More information

College Education/ Online Diploma

College Education/ Online Diploma

It’s also possible to start a MLA career after a college course or online diploma. Level 2 certificate or level 3 diploma courses help to find employment and improve the chances to get selected.

Chemistry, biology and physics A levels will also be useful.

Entry Requirement

Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship could be another alternative. You could enter this job by taking an advanced apprenticeship as a medical laboratory assistant.

Entry Requirement

Conclusion

MLA career is for you if you like to work in a calm and quiet environment and if you have a keen mind for details. Each of these jobs gives a wonderful place to work and you can also study further to enhance your career growth as online courses are very flexible and appropriate for professionals.

Before making a decision and choosing one of these career options you just need to think about your own preferences and enthusiasm and then take an accredited training or college degree to have your dream come true.

September 9, 2020

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