What Does a Phlebotomist Do? (And How to Become One)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Being a phlebotomist is about more than just drawing blood. Find out what it takes to become a phlebotomist and why you might consider this over other health care jobs.

[Featured Image] A phlebotomist wearing scrubs draws blood from a patient in a hospital.

Phlebotomists are medical professionals specially trained to draw blood. Unlike some other medical professions, the time it takes to become a phlebotomist is relatively short.

You can expect to spend a couple of months in a phlebotomy program, where you'll practice placing needles in people's arms and then take an exam to demonstrate your expertise in drawing blood. In less than a year, you can work in an entry-level medical position, performing a valuable job in a doctor's office, medical lab, or hospital.

In this article, you'll learn all about what phlebotomists do and what it takes to become one. We'll point you toward courses that can help you get started today.

What is a phlebotomist? 

A phlebotomist, also called a phlebotomy technician, is a professional trained to collect blood samples from individuals. Depending on where they work, they also may assist with blood transfusions and blood drives. In addition to physically drawing blood from patients, they prepare blood samples for testing, collect patient information, and support patients who may be uncomfortable around needles.

Typical phlebotomist duties

As a phlebotomist, your primary duty is collecting blood samples from patients as ordered by a doctor or other health care professional. However, your practice may also include talking to patients about the blood draw process, checking vital signs, labeling vials, and keeping the work area clean and sterile. Depending upon where you're working, you also may be asked to perform the following duties during your shift:

  • Collect information and update patient medical records

  • Complete paperwork and label vials

  • Help patients feel more comfortable during the blood collection process

  • Order supplies

  • Set up the work area with the correct vials, needles, and other supplies

Where do phlebotomists typically work?  

Phlebotomists work in various health care settings, including hospitals, medical facilities, and laboratories. You'll also find them in research centers, nursing homes, blood donation facilities, outpatient care centers, community health centers, and insurance companies. They may work for private companies or public agencies, usually under the guidance of senior medical or laboratory personnel.


Phlebotomist salary and job outlook   

The median annual salary for phlebotomists is $37,380 [1]. How much you earn as a phlebotomist can vary depending on factors like where you live and work. Phlebotomists in outpatient care centers and medical and diagnostic labs tend to earn more. The salary may be lower in other facilities, including hospitals and doctor's offices.

Although this salary is lower than the mean salary in the United States, it is comparable to similar clinical health care jobs. The good news is that the job growth rate for this role is 10 percent, which is faster than the average for all jobs [1].

Read more: How Much Do Phlebotomists Make? 2023 Salary Guide

Skills required to become a phlebotomist 

As a phlebotomist, you’ll rely on a range of skills, such as dexterity, communication, and compassion. The following list includes additional skills that can help you be successful as a phlebotomist:

  • Attention to detail

  • Critical thinking

  • Hand-eye coordination

  • Mathematical skills

  • Organization

  • Problem-solving

  • Stamina

  • Working under pressure

Some patients feel more comfortable around needles than others. Whether they are five or 50 years old, you may offer support to help them handle their needle-related fears. This could mean slowing down to listen to them, explaining the procedure in terms they understand, and showing them compassion when they may need it most.

How long does it take to become a phlebotomist?

Depending upon your chosen educational path, it can take a few weeks to more than a year to become a certified phlebotomist. The certification course typically takes between 11 and 16 weeks (up to one semester) to finish. Qualifying for and passing the certification exam can extend the time it takes, especially if you need additional hands-on training before you can sit for the exam. 


How to become a phlebotomist

To become a phlebotomist, you'll need to complete an accredited program. Some states require you to obtain a professional certificate. Here are the steps you should take to become one:

1. Apply for a phlebotomy program.

To enter this career, you will only need a high school diploma or GED at minimum. Once you have that, you can apply for an accredited phlebotomy program. This usually requires:

  • Filling out and submitting an application

  • Proof of graduating from high school with a minimum GPA

  • CPR certification

  • Background check

  • Immunization records

How much does a phlebotomy program cost?

The cost for phlebotomy training can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Fully online programs tend to cost less than face-to-face programs, but you can find classes for as little as $500. If you choose to attend a program offered through a community college or health care training provider, you may pay more than $2,000 for the course. These prices may not include fees and course materials.


2. Complete the program.

Phlebotomy programs take approximately one year to complete. They involve coursework and hands-on training. In a program, you'll learn what a phlebotomist does day-to-day, methods for collecting blood samples, labelling and storing blood, standards and codes to adhere to, and patient safety.

Typically, hands-on training offers students a minimum of 40 hours of practical experience.

3. Earn a certificate.

Even if you plan to work in a state that does not require phlebotomy certification, you may find it helpful to complete certification to get that first job. Completing the certification process shows that you have classroom and clinical experience and passed a test to demonstrate your field knowledge.

A phlebotomy program can offer three types of certification:

  • Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT): Authorization to perform skin puncture blood collection

  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I): Authorization to perform skin puncture and venipuncture blood collection

  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II): Authorization to perform skin puncture, venipuncture, and arterial puncture blood collection

4. Take the certification exam.

Some states allow you to learn how to draw blood through on-the-job training. A handful of states, namely California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington, have certification requirements for phlebotomists.

National organizations such as American Medical Technologists (AMT), the National Center for Competency Testing/Multi-skilled Medical Certification Institute (NCCT/MMCI), and American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offer certifications.

Phlebotomy certification exam costs

Certification exam fees vary between organizations but typically range between $120 and $150 per exam. The National Center for Competency Testing offers an exam for $119 [2]. A similar exam offered by American Medical Technologists costs $125 [3]. Some websites provide practice tests at no cost or for a nominal fee, and you may find free study guides online and available for purchase.


5. Continue your education.

Once you have phlebotomy certification, you may need to take continuing education courses to keep the credential or stay eligible to practice in your state. Each state has its own set of requirements for maintaining your license. For example, New York does not require you to have a license unless you intend to perform tests on the sample you collect. Conversely, in California, you can plan to renew your license every two years with six hours of continuing education. Check the state licensing agency's website for specific details.

Next steps

Start building your knowledge about the medical field through courses like Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body is Telling Us from the University of Pennsylvania. Or, earn a specialization like Medical Terminology from Rice University, available on Coursera.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, Phlebotomists, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm#tab-5." Accessed August 28, 2023.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.