What Does a Medical Laboratory Scientist Do?

Medical laboratory scientists (MLS), also referred to as medical lab technologists, specialize in collecting and analyzing human tissue and fluid by utilizing various chemical and microscopic tests. MLS differ from medical lab technicians (MLT) in education level and job responsibilities, possessing a bachelor’s degree and a certification that verifies their ability to handle more complex laboratory analyses. Most tests run by MLS involve a multi-step protocol with detailed instructions. Technicians, who have an associate degree, are responsible for retrieving samples from patients or performing routine tests that are heavily automated.

Medical Laboratory Scientists, Specialists and Leaders

Medical lab scientists often occupy an administrative role in the lab, supervising and training techs on how to run lab procedures and handle equipment. In order to train others, MLS must know how to operate a range of sophisticated lab equipment. They must understand how to log data from every test and input the results in a patient's medical record. Physicians rely on medical lab scientists for accurate results in order to properly diagnose patients. MLS should also know how to communicate their findings with nurses and physicians to ensure vital information is not overlooked. In many cases, an MLS will specialize in a set of procedures associated with a branch of science. For instance, they may become a molecular biologist technologist and focus on protein and nucleic acid tests on cell samples.

Benefits of Being a Medical Lab Scientist

Although the job outlook for both MLS and MLTs looks positive for the next five years, advancing one's career from being a lab tech to become a medical lab scientist comes with a salary increase. According to the BLS, technologists earned an average salary of just under $60,000 in 2014, while technicians earned about $38,370. MLS schedules tend to be full-time with long shifts due to the lab's vital role in hospitals. However, MLS can work in a variety of settings outside of the hospital, such as veterinary clinics, research labs and forensic labs.

Becoming a Medical Lab Scientist

Being a MLS requires a bachelor’s degree along with a certification in order to practice in many states. For those who are already working as MLTs, there are on-campus and online programs that use the credits earned in an associate degree program toward earning a bachelor’s degree. This can often be completed in less than two years. An MLT to MLS online program is a great way for existing MLTs to leverage their knowledge and experience in order to earn a higher salary and advance their career.

Learn more about the LSUA BS in MLS online program.






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