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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), histotechnology is a field on the rise. The BLS projects that there will be a 22% increase in jobs for medical and clinical technologists and technicians, such as histotechnologists and histology techicians, between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average growth anticipated for all careers (11%). 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 in a vocational school or an associate’s degree and on-the-job experience. According to a study by O*NET (2013), a research affiliate of the American Job Center Network, 48% 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% 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 histology professionals is the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP). The ASCP reports that their Board of Certification (BOC) credentials are desired by seven times as many lab professionals as any other credentialing organization. Candidates for these certifications normally have to complete an approved program prior to registering for the certification exam. The exam is computer-adaptive and combines both written (multiple choice) and practical components. The main certifications awarded and recommended education levels are:
HT(ASCP) for Histotechnicians or histology technicians, associate’s degree
HTL(ASCP) for Histotechnologists, bachelor’s degree
While histotechnicians and histotechnologists can complete programs at histology technician schools and apply for their desired certifications, some of these professionals learn this training as part of a larger medical laboratory technology program.
Degree & certification Programs
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.
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 96% graduation rate and a 96% employment rate within six months of graduation.
One of the affiliated branches of the Mayo Clinic program is offered in Arizona and Minnesota. It takes nine months to complete, and recommends that applicants have a two-year associate of science degree (e.g., A.S., A.A.S.) 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 A.S. degree through the Rochester Community and Technical College (Minnesota only). This histology technician program provides exceptional classroom and clinical experiences, including specialized training in electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, cytology preparation procedures, enzyme histochemistry, molecular pathology, and more. This program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Lastly, graduates of this program have a stunning 100% first-time passing rate for the ASCP exam.
The Mayo Clinic also offers a histology technician program through Florida State College (FSC). This school combines didactic instruction in many of the same disciplines of the Minnesota and Arizona programs and also gives the students the option of completing clinical rotations at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. This associate of science in histology technology program at FSC takes two years to complete and is approved by the NAACLS. In 2013, 81.8% of the graduates of this program passed the ASCP exam. Also, this is a distance program with only six mandatory face-to-face sessions in the first year of core histotechnology course instruction. The second year, however, is more focused on the practical application of training and requires time at laboratories affiliated with FSC. Students must complete 565 hours of a clinical internship prior to receiving their degree.
The University of North Dakota has a histology certificate (HT-C) program which takes around two semesters 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.
The Keiser University histotechnology program is available in both Orlando and Pembroke Pines, Florida. It is an associate of science 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 of Florida 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 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|
|Mayo School of Health Sciences||Rochester||Minnesota||http://www.mayo.edu/mshs/||8|
|Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital||Johnstown||Pennsylvania||http://www.conemaugh.org||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
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 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 December 2010 to the present, the five-year HT ASCP-BOC exam pass rate is 87%.
Harford Community College of Maryland 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 has a one-year histological technician certificate program which prepares students not only for the the national certification exam (ASCP), but for the New York State Licensure as well. The program is a flexible, part-time, hybrid-learning approach combining both didactic training in core histotechnological concepts and hands-on practical training. Applicants for this school typically have earned an associate’s degree in a health science program or a related field.
Darton State College of Georgia offers both certificate and associate degree programs in histotechnology which are approved by the NAACLS. In the 2012-2013 year, there was a 96% graduation rate in the histotechnology school. Darton 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
There 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
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)
There are a number of courses that are offered as part of a more advanced program such as a master of science in histology. These include:
Laboratory Management and Leadership Skills
There is one central organization for the accreditation of histotechnician or histology technician programs. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). The primary aspects of the accreditation procedure for histotechnician or histology technician schools are:
The self-study process
The site visit
Evaluation by a review committee
Evaluation of the subsequent review by the quality assurance committee
Evaluation by the board of directors
The contact information for the accrediting agency is:
National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
5600 N. River Road, Suite 720
Rosemont, IL 60018-5119
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 (2013) predicts that the ranks of medical and clinical technologists and technicians will grow at different rates between 2012 and 2022, although both rates are faster than the 11% growth projected for all occupations in that same time period:
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists: 14%
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians: 30%
The technologists typically have more advanced training and credentials than the technicians and as a result make more money annually:
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists (BLS 2013)
10th percentile: $39,940
50th percentile (median): $58,430
90th percentile: $80,820
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians (BLS 2013)
10th percentile: $25,210
50th percentile (median): $37,970
90th percentile: $58,910
|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, January 2015|
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 various degrees 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’s important to contact your local histotechnology societies for the most recent requirements. The National Society for Histotechnology (NSH) has a convenient list of contacts for each state.