What Is a Medical Technologist (and How Do I Become One)?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Medical technologists test fluid and tissue samples to help physicians properly diagnose and treat their patients. Read more about this healthcare career, including tips on how to get started.

[Featured image] A medical technologist touches a monitor in a hospital setting.

Medical technologists are similar to behind-the-scenes medical detectives. They're highly trained, highly skilled scientists who perform tests to help physicians diagnose and treat diseases—an important role in the health services world. 

Let’s take a closer look at what medical technologists do, their educational requirements, and the skills they need to help you decide if this is a field you’d like to pursue. 

What do medical technologists do?

Medical technologists are behind-the-scenes testing and analysing body fluids (like blood and urine) and tissue samples at a lab or doctor's office. These laboratory test results aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. 

Medical technologists, also called medical laboratory scientists, clinical laboratory technologists, or technicians, often work in hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, GP surgeries, outpatient care centres, or universities. If you work in a small laboratory or clinic, you might perform various tests. In a larger setting, it’s more common to specialise. Some specialisation options include:

  • Blood bank or immunohematology technologists collect, classify, and prepare blood for transfusions.

  • Immunology technologists analyse samples involving the human immune system and its responses to foreign bodies.

  • Chemistry technologists prepare specimens and analyse body fluids' chemical and hormonal contents.

  • Cytotechnologists examine body cells under a microscope for abnormalities (such as cancer).

  • Microbiology technologists examine and identify bacteria and other microorganisms.

Medical technologist salary

According to Glassdoor, the median annual salary for clinical laboratory technologists in the UK is £30,861 as of June 2024 [1]. This may vary based on the type of facility you work in, where you’re located, and how much experience you have. 

How to become a medical technologist

Several paths can lead you to a career as a medical technologist. If you’re interested in a career in this field, here are some steps you can take to get started

1. Earn your degree.

Medical technologists typically hold a degree in medical technology, a related life science, or another scientific field, such as physical science or biomedical engineering. Some universities offer specific medical technology degrees. You typically need a 2.1 in an undergraduate honours degree or an integrated master’s degree to be considered.

2. Get experience.

Experience isn’t essential, but it can make you more competitive and help you demonstrate the essential skills needed to work as a medical technologist. Shadowing or working in an entry-level medical role is a great way to gain relevant experience.

3. Get certified.

If you don’t have a degree, you can still enter the profession by completing the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP). Additional certifications may give you a competitive edge while searching for a job because they provide concrete evidence of your professional capabilities. 

Get started with Coursera.

Explore whether a healthcare career may be a good fit for you by taking Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare from Northwestern University. Dig deeper into the topics you may work with as a medical technologist through courses like Introduction to the Biology of Cancer from Johns Hopkins University or Fundamentals of Immunology Specialisation from Rice.

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. "Medical Technologist Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/medical-technologist-salary-SRCH_KO0,20.htm." Accessed June 5, 2024.

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