Why Become a Medical Laboratory Scientist

medical laboratory scientist infographic
University of Cincinnati

Medical laboratory science professionals, often referred to as medical laboratory scientists are essentially healthcare detectives who uncover and provide laboratory analysis in assistance to physicians, while also playing a key role in disease prevention. This specific profession is not to be confused with medical laboratory technicians, who deal with the collection, processing and analysis of biological specimens and other things such as the maintenance of instruments. Medical laboratory scientists have a more extensive theoretical knowledge base, meaning they not only perform laboratory procedures but also evaluate/interpret results, utilise data and consult and conduct research to develop new test methods.

Currently, there has never been a better time to consider a career as a medical laboratory scientist, as it is one of the most lucrative majors available at universities today. With four to five billion laboratory tests performed every year in the United States, there is a growing need for qualified individuals to fill these positions. That figure makes MLSs arguably one of the most important medically-related positions available today as at least 70% of medical decisions are made based on these tests.

Understanding Medical Laboratory Science

Medical laboratory scientists analyse blood, body fluid and tissue samples and then generate data to help doctors determine the diagnoses and management of diseases, bacterial and viral infections and drug abuse. The tests are so important because so many doctors decisions are influenced by the results of laboratory tests. Because of the Affordable Care Act, more individuals have health insurance and can get diagnostic tests.

Students have a choice of two proficiency levels. A medical laboratory technician requires a two-year associate's degree, while a four-year bachelor degree allows a student to become a full medical laboratory scientist. The two-year degree allows you to get basic training on operating medical lab equipment, assisting scientist and gaining invaluable career experience. With the four-year degree, actual medical laboratory scientist are able to analyse lab test result and give expert opinions on what next steps should be taking with the patient.

Career Prospects and Salary

In 2014, 322,170 laboratory professionals were employed in the United States.  An additional 12,000 personnel are needed in this field to meet the growing demand of medical professionals. Only about 5,000 individuals graduate with the degrees required each year to handle the situation. The average annual salary for Medical laboratory scientists is $60,560 and the salary for technicians is  $40,750.

Growth in this field showed an additional 70,600 by 2022. States that have the highest number of medical laboratory scientists are: Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

Another reason for pursuing this field are the ever-changing advances in technology for early detection and diagnosis of disease, monitoring of conditions, helping to uncover mechanisms of disease and enabling clinicians to provide care at an individual level.

Have you ever thought about pursuing this as a career? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…