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CAREER DEVELOPMENT / NOV. 24, 2014
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How to Become a Cytotechnologist in the US

cytotechnologist
Montana University

Cytotechnologists are laboratory specialists who examine tissues and tiny cell samples to detect abnormalities in cellular patterns. They play an important role in detecting deadly diseases such as cancer and gonorrhea at their early stages. A passion for science and an interest disease prevention are some of the forces that can drive you right into this career.

What Do Cytotechnologists Do?

Basically, cytotechnologists use their knowledge of cellular and tissue structures to examine patient’s cells.

Their daily duties include:

  • Collecting and labeling cell samples from patients – Samples can be collected from various body parts, including reproductive parts and lungs
  • Using equipment such as electron microscopes to examine the collected samples
  • Recording their observations and working with disease pathologists to make an accurate diagnosis
  • Collaborating with doctors to develop the best treatment methods for the diagnosed diseases
  • Conducting public education seminars to educate people on diseases such as cancer.

Senior cytotechnologists also supervise technicians and manage laboratory activities

Working Environment

Cytotechnologists work up to 40 hours a week. They are typically on the job from Monday through Friday, but can work over the weekend when required.

Cytotechnologists are mainly based in laboratories that can be found in healthcare facilities, centers for medical research and medical schools

They usually wear lab coats and hand gloves when working.

Salary

Level of Seniority

Annual Pay

Starting cytotechnologists

$61,235

Senior cytotechnologists

$ 71,261

Source: Explorehealthcareers.org

Entry Requirements

To become a cytotechnologist, you should earn a bachelor’s degree in cytotechnology. The program, which must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, covers courses in:

  • Laboratory operations
  • Mathematics
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Screening and interpretation
  • Immunology and genetics
  • Biomedical technologies

Some of the universities offering this degree include:

  • University of Mississippi, Mississippi
  • University of Kansas, Kansas
  • Marshall University, West Virginia

After graduating, you should seek information regarding your state’s licensing requirements. If yours is among the few that require medical and clinical laboratory technologists to have a license before finding work, you will need to pass a licensing exam to earn it.

Important Qualities

Apart from the education, what else do you need to be a competent cytotechnologist?

  • A keen eyesight and attention to detail
  • An in-depth knowledge of modern diagnostic methods, such as computer- aided screening
  • Strong practical and analytical skills
  • Good analytical skills
  • Good decision makings skills
  • The ability to work calmly under pressure
  • Communication and teamwork skills
  • An interest in monitoring advancements in medical technologies
  • Good computer skills
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Manual dexterity.

Career Development

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree and finding a job, it is important to seek a professional certification as evidence of your expertise and competence. The American Society for Clinical Pathology is a good example of a professional body that offers a certification program that can take you places.

You should also consider pursuing a master’s degree in cytotechnology and later on, a PhD.

The American Society of Cytotechnology also offers membership opportunities. As a member, you will access a range of educational and professional development resources.

Job Opportunities

The employers of cytotechnologists include:

  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Medical learning institutions
  • Offices of Physicians
  • Pharmaceutical companies

With experience, you can be hired as a senior cytotechnologist. With a graduate degree, you can move into research and academia, where you will conduct research on medical technologies and teach cytotechnology students.

Finally, the growing aging population will increase the need to diagnose medical conditions. This, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will result in a 14 percent job growth for all medical technologists from 2012 through 2022.

So if you want to contribute to disease prevention without going through medical school, you can pursue a successful career in cytotechnology.

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