Phlebotomy is a growing career in the health care field with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement. As the population ages and medical professionals are needed more than ever, phlebotomists can find both full-time and part-time employment in a diverse range of medical settings or as traveling professionals. In this article, you'll learn more about what a phlebotomist is, what they do, and their job outlook. You'll also find common certificates and learn what you need to do to start this important health care career.
A phlebotomist, or phlebotomy technician, is a health care professional that draws blood from patients for laboratory testing, transfusions, and research. As a phlebotomist, you’ll have opportunities to work one-on-one with patients of all ages or as a specialist with pediatric or geriatric patients.
As a phlebotomist, you’ll meet with patients and will, at times, need to talk with them to ease their anxiety. You may encounter a nervous patient who fears needles, so you’ll want to be comfortable talking with people of all ages and walks of life.
Before you begin a blood draw, you’ll verify the patient’s identity and confirm the required number of specimens ordered. If your patient is ambulatory, you’ll want to ask them if they’ve ever fainted during a blood draw and if they have any adverse reactions to latex. You can also ask if they have an arm preference.
After you clean the injection site with an antiseptic, you’ll place an elastic band above it to add pressure. You'll then insert the needle into the vein and collect the blood into an airtight vial attached to the needle. When the proper amount is collected, you'll remove the needle and cover the punctured area with a bandage.
Before the patient leaves, you'll advise them of immediate aftercare instructions to prevent bleeding, such as not heavy lifting or placing a wet cold pack on the puncture site to avoid bruising.
You’ll then label the vials and enter the information into a database. The blood samples are delivered to a specified laboratory for examination by a lab technician.
As a phlebotomist, you also ensure the equipment is sterile and properly dispose of any that might be contaminated.
Phlebotomists work in a wide variety of health care environments in both full-time and part-time positions. Some of the most common work environments include:
Skilled nursing facilities
Medical and testing laboratories
Blood donor organizations
Substance abuse facilities
Public health centers
There are many employment opportunities for traveling phlebotomists as well. Insurance companies and home health companies have positions that require in-home and in-facility visits. If you're not looking for permanent employment, temporary agencies hire phlebotomists to fill short and long-term positions.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the number of job opportunities for phlebotomists will grow by 22 percent, or much faster than average for all occupations, by between 2020 and 2030 . This increase in jobs, they predict, will lead to an average of 19,500 openings for phlebotomists every year during the decade.
A career as a phlebotomist typically offers job security, competitive pay, and flexible work hours. Job opportunities exist in many health care environments and provide the opportunity to work with and meet many people from various walks of life.
The BLS attributes phlebotomist job growth to the increased demand by hospitals and diagnostic labs for professionals capable of taking blood samples. Other openings are like due to promotions, retirements, and those who leave the field for other reasons.
As health care becomes more accessible and affordable to a larger population, the demand for blood testing has also increased.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the mean annual salary for phlebotomists at $37,380 as of May 2021. The salaries per industry include:
Outpatient care centers $38,220
Medical and diagnostic labs $38,040
Physician offices $36,410
Other ambulatory health care services$35,360
There are several factors impacting the salary you can expect to earn as a phlebotomist such as your geographical location, educational and experiential level, and your employer's industry.
Location is a particularly critical factor in determining the salary of a phlebotomist. The most promising states for phlebotomist careers are:
Looking beyond geographical locations, your place of employment and level of education and experience also affect your salary. Generally, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, state government-owned medical facilities, and colleges and universities offer the highest-paid positions.
Traveling phlebotomists are in high demand as the population ages. Salaries range from $29,000 to $46,000 , depending on experience. Many employers offer additional compensation for gas and time spent traveling.
A career in phlebotomy offers opportunities for increased earning potential. Some include gaining experience, location, obtaining a degree, and becoming certified. Here’s a closer look at each.
The more experience you gain, the more you can generally increase your earning potential. Some employers only require experience for promotions, while others prefer continuing education.
You can gain experience with in-house training offered by hospitals and other health care facilities. You’ll learn venipuncture techniques and get hands-on equipment experience. Phlebotomy opportunities can include internships, so check with any medical facility you’d like to work at to see what’s available.
You may want to work with a specific age demographic, and there are opportunities available in pediatric and geriatric phlebotomy. Because these populations require more challenging blood draws, you must typically complete specialized training and exams to work with them.
The geographic location you work in can impact your earning potential. Highly populated and affluent metro areas offer more earning opportunities.
You can also look beyond geographical locations and consider around-the-clock care facilities where you can earn shift-differential pay.
Although a degree isn’t necessary to work as a phlebotomist, accredited degree programs provide classroom training and job experience. Associate degree programs are available at many colleges, and bachelor’s degree programs in medical technology are also options to consider if you aspire to be a phlebotomist.
A degree can result in a more competitive salary and it can be beneficial if your goal is to seek a higher position in the future, such as a medical technologist.
Even if your state doesn’t require certification, it can be advantageous to earn one. Certified phlebotomists can often earn a higher salary than non-certified phlebotomists.
Some programs provide online learning. However, clinical experience is needed for course completion that will require completing a specified number of venipunctures on patients or mannequins. When choosing an online program, make sure the school has a nearby place for you to complete your clinical hours.
There are many types of certifications for phlebotomists, each with different requirements. While one isn’t necessarily better than the others, the prerequisites are less challenging for some certifications. Here are some examples:
Phlebotomy Technician Certification (PBT-ASCP) offered by the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians: This certification requires a high school diploma and 40 hours of class training, and 100 hours of practice.
Phlebotomy Technician Certificate (PTC-ASPT) offered by the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians: To qualify for this certification, you must have completed a phlebotomy training program and six months of full-time or one year of part-time experience as a phlebotomist.
Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT-NHA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association: This certification requires completing classes through the National Healthcareer Association.
Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT-AMT) offered by the American Medical Technologists: For the RTT-AMT certification, you’ll need to pass an accredited phlebotomy course within the past four years and 1,040 cumulative hours working as a phlebotomist within the past three years.
Certified Phlebotomist Technologist (CPT-NPA) offered by the National Phlebotomy Association: Along with venipuncture training, requirements include 160 hours of classroom lessons and 200 hours of practical application.
Your career as a phlebotomist can begin in a year or less, depending on the educational path you choose and whether you seek certification.
To become a phlebotomist, you need to first gain the necessary training through a phlebology program at a community college or vocational school. In order to apply, you will need to have either a high school diploma or a GED. You’ll also need to submit immunization records and pass a background check. In some cases, you need CPR certification, depending on the course's requirements.
Most programs take about a year to complete, although some take less than that. You’ll have classroom instruction as well as practice blood draws.
Once you’ve completed the educational requirement, you can pursue certification. Many employers prefer hiring phlebotomists who hold accredited certification credentials. There are a wide variety of certifications, each with its own requirements and unique focuses. Some certification programs require an applicant to have a specific number of vein punctures to qualify for the exam.
Depending on the state in which you work, you may need to be licensed in order to practice professionally. Check with your state’s professional licensing board to see if you’ll need a license and the requirements needed. Once you’ve passed the exam, you can apply to jobs that meet your interests and career goals.
As you’re thinking about a career in phlebotomy, you might consider joining a professional association or taking an online course to expand your knowledge and skill set. The National Phlebotomy Association offers many benefits for professional development, including a job board and a schedule of events for phlebotomists and those interested in entering the career field. The University of Pennsylvania's Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us explores the anatomy and physiology underlying vital signs in just 14 hours.
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1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Phlebotomists: Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm#tab-6." Accessed June 10, 2022
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Phlebotomists: Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm#tab-5." Accessed June 10, 2022.
3. Phlebotomy U. "What Are Traveling Phlebotomy Jobs?, https://phlebotomyu.com/traveling-phlebotomy-jobs/." Accessed June 10, 2022.
4. Northwest Suburban College. "Phlebotomy Certifications: 5 Types You Need to Know About, https://nwsc.edu/phlebotomy-certifications-types/.” Accessed June 10, 2022.
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.