MLP Workforce Report

An expected 40% vacancy rate in labs sounds promising for new lab recruits

Donning gloves, a protective mask and goggles, they operate microscopes, study blood samples and analyze tissue samples for normal or abnormal findings, some even analyzing cells for an indication of a cancerous growth. This is all in a day’s work for medical laboratory professionals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth of 22% is expected between 2012 and 2022 for medical laboratory professionals, a rate that is much faster than the average growth for a career field. And that number could go even higher.

Jon Harol, laboratory recruiter for Lighthouse Recruiting, expects a vacancy rate of up to 40% in medical labs by 2018 because of older staff members retiring. Not only does this leave potential for new lab staff to enter the job field, it gives current laboratory professionals with a few years of experience under their belt to move up the career ladder as baby boomers exit the work force, leaving behind their career titles and higher pay scales.

Those same baby boomers are autonomously adding to the aging population, increasing the demand for medical lab procedures used to diagnose cancer and other diseases, according to the U.S.  Bureau of Labor Statistics. This will further strengthen job security for medical lab technicians and technologists who perform the procedures.

Launching a Lab Career

When considering this profession, it’s important to know that as with any job, new hires will likely have to pay their dues.

“Early on in your career you are probably going to end up working a lot of nights and holidays,” Harol said in an interview with ADVANCE. “However, if you stick with it you can usually work your way on to a day shift and be called on to work less holidays.

When employers are looking to hire, they’ll assess whether someone is right for the job. Similarly, people researching occupations should ask themselves whether they’re right for this line of work.

Valuable qualities for medical laboratory professionals to possess are an ability to use technology, attention to detail, dexterity in order to work closely with needles and other lab equipment, and physical stamina, since they may need to lift or turn a patient in order to collect a sample.

Most entry-level technologist jobs require a bachelor’s degree, usually in medical laboratory technology or life sciences. An associate’s degree is usually required to become a medical laboratory technician. Both types of programs typically include courses in chemistry, biology and mathematics.

Something else to take into account is that a number of schools and programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), which assures quality, value and innovation for healthcare providers, according to its website.

Requirements & Earnings

After graduation, some states require a license or certification to secure employment in the field. Harol finds that states with these requirements, such as New York, California and Florida, are often most in need for medical laboratory technologists and technicians, due to the added requirement to enter the workforce.

As a group, medical laboratory professionals make an average of $47,820 annually. Technologists command higher salaries in the range of $57,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technicians, educated at an associate’s degree level, make slightly less. With job demand for these positions on the rise, salaries are expected to increase accordingly over the next few years.

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