Phlebotomist: What They 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, though, the time it takes to become a phlebotomist is relatively short.

You may spend some time in a phlebotomy program, where you'll practice sticking needles in people's arms and take an exam to show everything you know about drawing blood. 

Alternatively,  you may go straight to obtaining a position as a trainee phlebotomist, where you work in a doctor's office, medical lab, or hospital and are trained on the job. When a doctor needs a blood sample to diagnose, they turn to you.

In this article, you'll learn all about what phlebotomists do, where they work, how much they make, and their job outlook in the coming years. Most importantly, though, you'll learn what you have to do to join this important health care career and explore courses that can help you get started today. 

A career as a phlebotomist can be flexible, varied, and exciting. If you're considering starting a new job, you can just read on to decide whether phlebotomy is right for you.

What is a phlebotomist?

A phlebotomist, or phlebotomy technician, is a professional trained to collect individual blood samples. Depending on where they work, they 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.

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 centres, nursing homes, blood donation facilities, outpatient care centres, community health centres, and insurance companies. They may work for private companies or public agencies, usually under the guidance of senior medical or laboratory personnel.

More than drawing blood: 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, labelling 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

Potential salary and job outlook  

The base salary for phlebotomists in the United Kingdom averages £22,997 per year as of June 2024 [1]. How much you earn as a phlebotomist can vary depending on where you live and work. There is a shortage of skilled phlebotomists, especially in London, and it’s expected to grow as new diagnostic techniques, clinic laboratory technology, and automated instruments continue to increase the testing volume [2].

Skills required to become a phlebotomist

As a phlebotomist, you’ll rely on various technical and human skills, such as dexterity, communication, and compassion. This makes sense when you understand the different types of people you may work with and the conditions you work under. Precision counts. For example, a steady hand and nimble fingers are helpful when you apply a tourniquet and insert the needle into the patient's skin.

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. 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

  • Organisation

  • Problem-solving

  • Stamina

  • Work under pressure 

How to become a phlebotomist

While no mandatory entry requirements exist for becoming a phlebotomist, employees usually ask for at least two GCSEs or the equivalent. Some might ask for a BTEC or similar vocational qualification in health and social work or health care. 

Some people take certification courses that provide phlebotomy training, and others start by applying for trainee phlebotomy positions, where they are trained on the job.

Potential employers may want you to have relevant work experience. Even if it’s not required, you may find it useful to have paid or volunteer experience. There are health care apprenticeships where you can receive training and relevant experience before applying for a trainee phlebotomist position.  

Get a certificate

Many privately operated courses teach the skills you need to become a phlebotomist. While health professionals usually run them, most need to be accredited, and even after taking a private training course, the only way to obtain a Certificate of Competence is by taking a trainee position with the NHS.

How long does it take to become a phlebotomist?

The time it takes depends on the training and educational path you choose. Learning phlebotomy by completing an apprenticeship, either as a health care assistant specialising in phlebotomy or a health care support worker who applies for a trainee role in phlebotomy, can take one to five years.

Phlebotomy program costs

Many phlebotomy training programs cost a few hundred pounds. They are not required, as the path to becoming a phlebotomist is to apply for a position as a trainee where you are trained on the job. However, training courses can help you become a phlebotomy trainee, which is often competitive.  

Continuing education

As a phlebotomist, you should continue your professional development and further develop your education and experience by taking additional courses and training sessions. Consider joining the National Association of Phlebotomists or the Institute of Biomedical Science to attend training and conferences.

Next steps

If the colourful world of phlebotomy — and the flexibility and variety of the work —  appeals to you, it's a great time to find a program where you can learn the skills you need for this valuable career. While exploring what's out there, you might consider taking a flexible, cost-effective Course or Specialisation through Coursera. 

While you wait for your classes to start, 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 consider completing a specialisation like Medical Terminology from Rice University, available on Coursera.

Article sources


Glassdoor. ‘Phlebotomist Salary in United Kingdom,,2_IN2_KO3,15.htm?clickSource=searchBtn’. Accessed June 17, 2024.

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