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 can expect to spend some time in a phlebotomy training program, where you'll practice sticking needles in people's arms and take an exam to show everything you know about drawing blood. After completing the course successfully and receiving certification, you can work in an entry-level medical position, performing a valuable job in a doctor's office, medical lab, or hospital. 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, a phlebotomy technician, is a professional trained to collect individual blood samples. 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.

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  

How much you earn as a phlebotomist depends on where you live and work. The base salary for phlebotomists averages ₹4,37,501, and phlebotomists can earn a bonus of approximately ₹5,075 per year [1].

From April through June 2021, TeamLease Services reported that hiring in the health care sector had almost doubled from the same period a year before. The report said short-term contracts for phlebotomists in diagnostic labs were among the roles in the highest demand [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

After passing the 12th class, you’ll also need a bachelor’s degree in science or a certificate showing successful completion of a phlebotomy course. 

Get a Certificate

Some government skill development programmes, such as the National Skills Development Corporation, offer certification opportunities. Some healthcare institutes offer phlebotomy certification training programmes that culminate in certification.

You’ll need to have passed Class 12 (some institutes say Class 10)  to take a certificate class. 

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How long does it take to become a phlebotomist?

Training periods vary between institutes. Some are as short as three to six months, while others take six months to a year to become a certified phlebotomist. Courses may be offered online, onsite, or in combination. 

Phlebotomy programme costs

The cost for phlebotomy training varies from one institute to another and may range from ₹10,000 to ₹40,000 depending on the institute, the type of training programme, and course content [3]. Some training courses may be primarily online and less expensive.

Phlebotomy certification exam costs

Phlebotomy training courses or programmes usually include the necessary certificate of completion and, in some cases, a diploma certificate. Your certification exam is included as part of the training course. 

Certification can also be done online, meaning someone already working as a lab technician can earn a certificate to upskill and certify themselves in phlebotomy.

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 programme 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 waiting for your classes to start, build your knowledge about the medical field through courses like Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body is Telling Us from the University of Pennsylvania. You can also earn a specialisation like medical terminology from Rice University, which is available on Coursera.

Article sources

1

Salary Expert. “Phlebotomist, https://www.salaryexpert.com/salary/job/phlebotomist/india.” Accessed April 4, 2024.

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