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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), histotechnology is a field on the rise. The BLS projects that there will be a 13 percent increase in jobs for medical and clinical technologists and technicians, such as histotechnologists and histology technicians, between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the average growth anticipated for all careers (7 percent). These professionals typically attend histology technician schools since the work requires a specialized knowledge of laboratory procedures including specimen staining, identification, slide mounting, handling, and documentation.
Entry-level jobs in histotechnology normally require one year of training at a vocational school or an associate’s degree and on-the-job experience. According to O*NET, a research affiliate of the American Job Center Network, 48 percent of the surveyed histotechnology professionals reported that an associate’s degree was their highest level of education. Twenty-five percent had bachelor’s degrees, and 10 percent had post-secondary certificates. The degree necessary for particular subspecialties of histotechnology generally depends on the level of specialized training necessary.
The main certifying body for histotechnology professionals is the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Candidates for ASCP certifications normally have to complete an approved program prior to registering for the certification exam.
Degree & certification Programs
The George Washington University
HealthInformatics@GW - The George Washington University
There are a number of histotechnology schools which offer programs to prepare students for the ASCP exam and a career in this growing field. While there are no programs offered exclusively online due to the practical and clinical applications of the work, there are a number of flexible options offering hybrid or mixed programs.
- Mayo School of Health Sciences – In both Rochester, Minnesota and Scottsdale, Arizona, the Mayo School of Health Sciences offers a histology technician program to applicants that have some prior experience and training in the field. It offers a number of classes in biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and medical technology to prepare aspiring histotechnicians for their careers. While the prerequisites for the Mayo Clinic program are more extensive than those of other programs, the job outlook and graduation rates are top-notch. They boast a 100 percent graduation rate. The Mayo Clinic program takes nine months to complete, and recommends that applicants have a two-year associate of science degree (e.g., AS or AAS) prior to enrolling. Graduates are rewarded with a certificate of completion through the Mayo School of Health Sciences, in addition to an option for an AS degree through the Rochester Community and Technical College (Minnesota only). This program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
- Florida State College Jacksonville (FSCJ) – Located in Jacksonville, the Florida State College Jacksonville offers a histology technician program through Florida State College (FSC). This school combines didactic instruction also gives the students the option of completing clinical rotations at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. This associate of science (AS) in histology technology program at FSCJ takes two years to complete and is accredited by the NAACLS. In 2015, 82 percent of the graduates of this program passed the ASCP exam. Also, this is a distance program with two mandatory face-to-face sessions during each of the six terms of the program. Students must also complete 565 hours of a clinical internship prior to receiving their degree.
- University of North Dakota (UND) – Located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, UND has a histology certificate (HT-C) program which takes approximately nine months to complete. Similar to the other programs, it combines both coursework and laboratory sessions at clinical affiliate sites. This program offers some online flexibility as well and has the advantage of offering the same tuition rate to all students regardless of their residency.
- Keiser University – Available at its Orlando campus, the Keiser University histotechnology program requires 67 total credit hours to complete. It is an associate of science (AS) program which is accredited by the NAACLS and provides a quality education in the core concepts of histotechnology in addition to clinical and laboratory experience. Some of the courses in this program include histology, microtomy, cellular biological staining, tissue identification, and immunohistochemistry staining.
- Barry University – In Miami Shores, Florida, Barry University offers various options for people with bachelor’s degrees who are looking to prepare themselves for certification and a career in histotechnology. One option is for those interested in a bachelor of science (BS) in clinical biology with a specialization in histotechnology. The length of this program will depend on the student’s prior college credits and experience. Barry University also offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in histology which takes nine months to complete. Classes are designed to be convenient for working professionals and typically take place on weekends and evenings. Lastly, this school offers a master’s in clinical biology with a histotechnology specialization. All of these programs are accredited by the NAACLS.
All of the above programs are designed to prepare applicants of various educational levels for the ASCP Board of Certification (BOC) exam.
List of Histotechnologist Schools
|School||City||State||Website||Total grads (2013)|
|Davidson County Community College||Thomasville||North Carolina||https://www.davidsonccc.edu/||13|
|The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center||Houston||Texas||http://www.mdanderson.org||12|
|Argosy University-Twin Cities||Eagan||Minnesota||https://www.argosy.edu/locations/twin-cities||9|
|Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital||Johnstown||Pennsylvania||http://www.conemaugh.org||8|
|Mayo School of Health Sciences||Rochester||Minnesota||http://www.mayo.edu/mshs/||8|
|Delaware Technical Community College-Stanton/Wilmington||Wilmington||Delaware||https://www.dtcc.edu/our-campuses/wilmington||7|
|Rochester Community and Technical College||Rochester||Minnesota||http://www.rctc.edu/||4|
|Oakland University||Rochester Hills||Michigan||http://wwwp.oakland.edu/||2|
Hybrid & online programs
The George Washington University (Health Sciences)
A number of the histotechnologist programs above offer some classes online, although there are other schools which have highlighted their distance and hybrid learning options for the convenience of prospective students. There are not any accredited histotechnology programs that can be taken 100% online due to the demands of the clinical work and training, but there are a number of options for busy people looking to pursue a certification in histotechnology.
- Harcum College – The program at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania has a blended online curriculum to assist students who may have working, family, or other obligations that prevent them from participating in a more traditional brick-and-mortar style education. All of the lectures for the core classes are available online for the first semester. The second semester involves clinical training under the supervision of a certified histologist. The histotechnician program coordinator works with students to make a lab schedule that fits his or her needs. Some of the courses in this program include anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and general chemistry. All of these can be taken at any accredited college or university and transferred into the histotechnician program at the convenience of the student. Harcum college reports that from 2014 to 2017 to the present, the three-year HT ASCP-BOC exam pass rate is 91 percent.
- Harford Community College – Located in Bel Air, Maryland, Harford Community College offers a ten-month NAACLS-certified online histotechnology certification program. Eligibility requirements include the completion of biology, chemistry, and math, in addition to some laboratory experience. Due to some state policies regarding enrollment in distance education programs, Harford cannot currently register students in the following states: Arkansas, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Utah.
- SUNY Broome – In Binghamton, New York, SUNY Broome has a one-year histological technician certificate program which prepares students not only for the national ASCP certification exam but also for New York state licensure. The program is a flexible, part-time, hybrid-learning approach combining both didactic training in core histotechnological concepts and hands-on practical training. Students enrolled in the program are able to complete clinical field work at approved locations near their homes. Applicants for this school typically have earned or are in the process of earning an associate’s degree in a health science program or a related field prior to enrollment.
- Albany State University (ASU) – Located in Albany, Georgia, Albany State University offers both certificate and an AAS programs in histotechnology which are approved by the NAACLS. The three-year average between 2013 and 2017 for graduation from this program was 95 percent with 85 percent passing the ASCP exam and 96 percent finding employment after graduation. ASU has an online or hybrid option for the course content. Students who choose to complete their training online must pursue their clinical training at a local affiliate.
In sum, there is a lot of flexibility in histotechnology programs for people with busy schedules. The online options for candidates continue to expand as histotechnology training programs revolutionize their methods of course administration.
Core & Elective Courses
Following are some basic math and science courses which are offered either as part of a histotechnician or histology technician training program, or are recommended prerequisites:
Basic anatomy & physiology
General organic & biochemistry lab
In addition, there are a number of core courses which appear in many histotechnician or histology technician programs, including:
Introduction to histology
Cellular biological staining
Principles of fixation
Histology externship (clinical work)
As part of a more advanced program, such as a master of science in histology, courses that go deeper into the subject will be required. Some of these courses could include:
Laboratory msnagement and leadership skills
Choosing an accredited program is important since it is required in order to earn future certification. Accreditationn means that a program or institution has been evaluated for its faculty, facilities, and curriculum. There is one central organization for the accreditation of histotechnician or histology technician programs: the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). To earn accreditation, programs must adhere to the following procedures:
Submit a thorough self-study
Have an official site visit
Be evaluated by a review committee
Evaluation of the subsequent review by the quality assurance committee
Evaluation by the board of directors
In addition to programmatic accreditation from the NAACLS, applicants can look for a school's overall institutional accreditation. Although the process for instituional accreditation is quite similar, it is applicable to the entire school rather that just one program. Institutional accreditation is typically granted by regionally distinct organizations such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are a number of reasons why there has been an explosion in the demand for medical technicians such as histotechnology professionals in the United States. First, there has been an increase in the average age of the population which has lead to a greater need to diagnose conditions such as cancer and diabetes. Medical technicians and technologists are the backbone of much of this diagnostic lab work. Additionally, as medical technology continues to advance and a growing number of people are offered health care through measures such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a concurrent rise in the need for these trained medical professionals.
The BLS (2017) predicts that the ranks of medical and clinical technologists and technicians will grow at different rates between 2016 and 2026, although both rates are faster than the 7 percent growth projected for all occupations in that same time period:
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists: 12 percent
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians: 14 percent
Technologists typically have more advanced training and credentials than the technicians and as a result, tend to make more money annually.
|Related Careers||Cytogenetic Technologist, Cardiovascular Technician, Surgical Technologist, Neurodiagnostic Technologist, Endoscopy Technician|
|Common Job Titles||Histotechnician, Histotechnologist, Histology Technician, Histology Technologist|
|Technology & Equipment||Histological Knives or Blades, Histology or Cytology Slide Stainers, Laboratory Staining Dishes or Jars, Microtomes (E.G., Rotary Microtomes, Sled Microtomes, Ultramicrotomes, Vibratomes), Tissue Processors, Software (E.G., Label-Making, Medical, Office Suite, Spreadsheet)|
|Sourced from BLS, June 2018|
Licensing & Certification
In order to become a licensed histotechnician (histology technician) or histotechnologist, a person must take an exam after completing an accredited program at a histotechnology school. The most common national certification is offered through the American Society of Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC). The exam is in a computer-adaptive format and has a multiple choice section as well as a clinical component. Upon passing the exam, individuals are licensed and receive a certificate. This HT certification is valid for three years and must be maintained through the Certification Maintenance Program (CMP).
There are two certifications for histotechnology professionals which call for different standards of minimum educational attainment:
HT(ASCP) for Histotechnicians (histology technicians), associate’s degree (typically)
HTL(ASCP) for Histotechnologists, bachelor’s degree (typically)
Since licensure requirements can vary by state, it is important for prospective histotechnologists to contact their local histotechnology societies for the most recent requirements.