Medical laboratory scientists (MLS), also referred to as medical laboratory technologists, are essential to modern medicine. MLS practice medical laboratory science and are responsible for collecting and analyzing body fluids and tissue samples from patients in order to gather accurate data that physicians can use to diagnose and treat patients. Due to their vital role in the healthcare system, MLS have a positive job outlook and are in high demand.
A Vital Cog in the Machine
Personalized medicine, an aging population, the prevalence of chronic diseases, wider access to diagnostic tools, improved record keeping and tracking of data have all driven the demand for MLS. Today, there are more than 320,000 MLS and tech positions in the United States, with about half of those held in hospitals and the rest in physician offices, research or diagnostic labs. About 44 percent of all the labs in the United States have reported difficulty in filling lab techs and scientists positions. Additionally, about 30 percent of all MLS and tech positions are currently vacant. These findings have led the U.S. Department of Labor to estimate that medical laboratory science will grow by 22 percent over a 10-year span, above average compared with other professions.
Becoming a Medical Laboratory Scientist
There are several ways to become an MLS. For medical laboratory technicians who possess an associate degree, the pathway to MLS is relatively short, requiring about two years of study in order to earn a bachelor’s degree and become eligible for certification. Medical laboratory science programs provide students with an extensive amount of theoretical knowledge. Practicing MLS use this knowledge to evaluate and interpret results, integrate data into models, solve problems, consult, perform related research and create new testing methods or protocols for others to follow.
A Rewarding Career
Medical laboratory science programs have become more common across the United States thanks in large part to the profession’s demand and in part to the rewarding benefits, which has attracted many prospective students. According to the BLS, in 2014 MLS earned an average of $59,430 while performing a vital function that saves lives. Many of these professionals go on to become supervisors, leading and training techs on how to gather samples from patients and perform automated testing procedures.
Medical laboratory science is in high demand due to its importance in modern medicine. The positive job outlook for this career stems from the lab scientist’s vital role in providing additional information about the patient, putting to paper data that is otherwise unseen, but essential. With almost a third of all medical lab positions vacant and with an impressive salary ceiling, becoming a medical laboratory scientist is a smart choice especially for those who already work in the field as a tech.
Learn about the LSUA online BS in Medical Laboratory Science program.
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