Medical Lab Assistant Schools & Accredited Programs
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Medical laboratory assistants are critical members of the healthcare system. They strike a balance of medical care, technology, and science as they are responsible for interacting with patients but also must be able to help a lab run smoothly. Typical duties can include taking blood, gathering specimens, preparing samples for testing, running routine tests, sterilizing equipment, and recording results.
In order to perform the duties required, medical lab assistants must complete entry-level training and education. While the necessary skills can be gained through on-the-job training, employers prefer that candidates complete a medical lab assistant certificate or diploma. Completing a medical lab assistant program demonstrates dedication to completing a course of study, as well as a minimum level of competency in the field.
There are several options for pursuing a medical lab assistant diploma or certification. Students can attend a traditional on-campus program, or they can complete an online or hybrid one. In-person schools that offer the necessary training include community colleges, vocational schools, and career centers. Online programs are offered through similar institutions and may also include online-only certification entities such as MedCert.
Another optional step medical lab assistants can take is to obtain certification. This voluntary step demonstrates to employers and patients that the certificate-holder has reached a high level of expertise in this field and has the necessary hands-on skills to succeed.
The primary certifications available for medical lab assistants are the Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) designation through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant (CMLA) through American Medical Technologists (AMT). Some states may require medical lab assistants to obtain a license in order to practice to perform specific procedures.
If this detail-oriented, patient-centric, lab-based career sounds interesting, continue reading to learn more about schools that offer this training, job outlook, and accreditation.
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On-Campus Medical Lab Assistant Programs
While a degree or certificate is not necessary for a career as a medical lab assistant, they can be advantageous when looking for work and may net a higher salary.
Most medical lab assistant programs are offered at technical schools, community colleges, or vocational training centers. The most common programs offer certificates or diplomas. However, students can pursue an associate of science as a medical lab technician, which is a more advanced degree.
Admission to most of these programs is relatively straightforward, with the only requirements being a completed application and paying an application fee. Some programs may require candidates to provide proof of a high school diploma or GED, but there are many programs that do not.
In rare cases, students may have to prove proficiency in subjects such as English or math, already have a certification in phlebotomy or basic life support, or have previous work experience. Here are some on-campus medical lab assistant program options:
Bellevue College: Located in Bellevue, Washington, just east of Seattle, this school offers a clinical laboratory assistant certificate that can be completed in as little as one year. This four-quarter 50- to 59-credit program prepares students with the necessary skills to work in a clinical lab.
Graduates of this program will have the skills necessary to collect specimens, work with patients, deliver results, and maintain confidentiality. This program places a special emphasis on training students to be aware of cultural sensitivities when working with patients.
Edmonds College: The clinical laboratory assistant program at Edmonds College in Lynnwood, Washington, consists of both classroom instruction and hands-on lab classes. The 43 required credits for this program are typically completed in three quarters. The first two quarters are classroom courses, while the final quarter is when students will complete a 66-hour practicum.
All students have the option of completing a Phlebotomy Technician Certificate as part of this program, which would allow them to sit for the Medical Assistant – Phlebotomy (MA-P) through the Department of Health in Washington State.
Salt Lake Community College: Classes for the clinical lab assistant program at Salt Lake Community College are offered on their Jordan campus in West Jordan, Utah. Instead of credit-hours, this program requires students to complete 365 clock-hours of education and externships.
When students complete this program, they will also earn the American Heart Association Healthcare Provider CPR and American Heart Association First Aid certificates. Students must be at least 16 years old to enroll in this program but must be 18 to complete the externship portion. This program is relatively inexpensive, with an estimated $1,500 total costs, excluding room and board.
Arapahoe Community College: Students can complete their medical laboratory assistant certificate at one of Arapahoe Community College’s three campuses. They are located in Castle Rock, Parker, and Littleton, Colorado.
Unlike other programs with intensive classroom components, Arapahoe only requires students to complete eight credits of coursework. The remainder of a student’s training and education happens through the required 120-hour clinical internship. Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for either the ASCP or AMT certification exams.
Calhoun Community College: In just 20 weeks (1.5 semesters), students can complete the medical laboratory assistant program at Calhoun Community College. This program is located on the Huntsville campus in Huntsville, Alabama. The first 16 weeks of this program are completed in the classroom and lab, learning how to gather specimens, prepare samples for testing, perform basic tests, record information, and even deliver results.
The final four weeks of the program are a clinical laboratory practicum. Students may be eligible for funding to complete this program through the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Medical Lab Assistant
|Southwest University at El Paso||El Paso||Texas||southwestuniversity.edu||269|
|Los Angeles ORT College-Los Angeles Campus||Los Angeles||California||www.laort.edu||61|
|Columbus State Community College||Columbus||Ohio||www.cscc.edu||55|
|Chemeketa Community College||Salem||Oregon||www.chemeketa.edu||54|
|Lamson Institute||San Antonio||Texas||lamsoninstitute.com||54|
|Osceola Technical College||Kissimmee||Florida||otec.osceolaschools.net||38|
|University of the Incarnate Word||San Antonio||Texas||www.uiw.edu||36|
|Cuyahoga Community College District||Cleveland||Ohio||www.tri-c.edu||34|
|Orange Technical College-Orlando Campus||Orlando||Florida||www.orangetechcollege.net||28|
|Los Angeles ORT College-Van Nuys Campus||Van Nuys||California||www.laort.edu||24|
|Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College||Orangeburg||South Carolina||www.octech.edu||18|
|Wenatchee Valley College||Wenatchee||Washington||www.wvc.edu||17|
|Pinnacle Career Institute-South Kansas City||Kansas City||Missouri||pcitraining.edu||14|
|Tooele Technical College||Tooele||Utah||www.tooeletech.edu||14|
|Clover Park Technical College||Lakewood||Washington||www.cptc.edu||12|
|Delaware Technical Community College-Terry||Dover||Delaware||www.dtcc.edu||11|
|Clackamas Community College||Oregon City||Oregon||www.clackamas.edu||9|
|Edmonds Community College||Lynnwood||Washington||www.edcc.edu||9|
|University of Maine at Augusta||Augusta||Maine||www.uma.edu||9|
|California Institute of Medical Science||Fresno||California||cims.edu||8|
|Dalton State College||Dalton||Georgia||www.daltonstate.edu||8|
|Central Arizona College||Coolidge||Arizona||www.centralaz.edu||7|
|North Idaho College||Coeur d'Alene||Idaho||www.nic.edu||5|
|Northeast Technical Institute||Scarborough||Maine||www.ntinow.edu||5|
|Contra Costa Medical Career College||Antioch||California||www.ccmcc.edu||4|
|Eastern Arizona College||Thatcher||Arizona||www.eac.edu||4|
|North Arkansas College||Harrison||Arkansas||www.northark.edu||4|
|Kankakee Community College||Kankakee||Illinois||www.kcc.edu||3|
|University of Maine at Presque Isle||Presque Isle||Maine||www.umpi.edu||3|
|Bossier Parish Community College||Bossier City||Louisiana||www.bpcc.edu||2|
|Salt Lake Community College||Salt Lake City||Utah||www.slcc.edu||2|
Online Medical Lab Assistant Programs
Due to the hands-on nature of a medical lab assistant degree program, there are very few entirely online programs. At a minimum, students need hands-on skills and training to perform venipunctures, draw blood. Some online programs will assist students in completing their in-person components, while others put the burden on the students to find a location to learn the skill.
Students should consult with their program prior to enrolling to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities. Here are three programs that offer a large portion of medical lab assistant training online:
MedCerts: MedCerts is an online-only medical education school. Aspiring medical lab assistants can complete their clinical medical specialist program, which encompasses both the medical assistant program and phlebotomy technician training. This 31-week program has a low flat fee of just $5,000.
In order to complete this program, students will need to perform 30 venipunctures and ten capillary sticks. MedCerts does not guarantee placement for students to complete this experience. Therefore this program is only recommended for students already working in the healthcare field who can readily access a place to learn these skills.
Weber State University: Located in Ogden, Utah, Weber State University offers students the opportunity to complete their medical laboratory assistant certificate online. All lecture classes can be completed online while laboratory skills are learned and practiced at a supporting laboratory under the supervision of a qualified mentor. In total, students must complete 64 hours of training at their supporting laboratory.
As part of the admissions process, students must secure a statement of support from a clinical site where they intend on completing their hands-on learning. Students who complete this program can continue their studies with the online medical laboratory technician program also offered at Weber.
South Piedmont Community College: The medical lab assistant program at South Piedmont Community College is offered in a hybrid format allowing students the option to choose online, hybrid, and on-campus courses. Naturally, lab classes must be attended in person but are typically offered in the evening or on weekends to allow students to work should they so choose.
Daytime classes are offered at the Polkton campus in Polton, North Carolina, and evening and weekend classes are offered at the Monroe campus in Monroe, North Carolina. Most students can complete this program in two semesters, including an eight-week clinical practicum.
Rasmussen University: The online associate of science in medical laboratory technologist at Rasmussen University, in Bloomington, Minnesota, is a 21-month long program that prepares students for national certification and a rewarding career.
This degree is more advanced than is necessary for a career as a medical lab assistant and provides students with the skills and education necessary to perform more complex tests and procedures.
Core & Elective Courses for Medical Lab Assistants
Currently, there is no programmatic accrediting body for medical lab assistant programs, which means core and elective coursework can vary. In order to be eligible for AMT certification, however, students must complete a course that includes at least 200 hours of didactic education. There is no specification as to what these courses must entail. Typical classes offered can include:
Clinical laboratory skills
Anatomy and physiology
Medical laws and ethics
Administrative office procedures
Clinical practicum, externship, or internship
Medical Lab Assistant Program & School Accreditation
When students are considering an educational program, it is imperative that they assure that the school and degree have some level of accreditation. Accreditation assures students and employers that an institution has attained a high level of quality in facilities, faculty, and curriculum. Also, attending an accredited institution makes it easier to transfer credit to another school should a student switch schools.
The two primary types of accreditation are programmatic, meaning for a specific degree, or regional, meaning the school holds a nationally recognized accreditation. Presently, there is no programmatic accrediting body for medical lab assistant programs.
However, more general medical assistant programs are programmatically accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). More advanced medical laboratory technician or scientist programs are accredited by the National Accreditation Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
Regional accreditation is provided through one of six accrediting agencies recognized by the Department of Education. They include:
Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
The career outlook for medical lab assistants is robust, with anticipated increases in jobs in this field. This career typically falls under the designation of medical assistant, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS (2021) estimates that there will be an 18 percent increase in jobs for medical assistants. This translates into over 132,000 new positions at hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, diagnostic laboratories, and outpatient centers. The 710,200 medical assistants in the US earn $36,930 per year on average. The percentiles for wages are:
10th percentile: $26,930
25th percentile: $30,360
50th percentile (median): $35,850
75th percentile: $41,280
90th percentile: $50,580
Licensing & Certification for Medical Lab Assistants
Licensing requirements for medical lab assistants vary from state to state. Some states require clinical laboratory personnel to be licensed, and medical lab assistants can sometimes be classified as such.
In addition, four states require licensing to perform venipunctures: California, Nevada, Louisiana, and Washington. Aspiring medical lab assistants should contact their local licensing boards to ensure they have the necessary qualifications and obtain the appropriate credentials to practice in their state.
For the most part, certification as a medical lab assistant is optional. However, this additional voluntary step demonstrates to employers and patients a high level of competency in this field. There are two primary certifications medical lab assistants can earn.
Become a Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant (CMLA-AMT)
- Offered by: American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- Prerequisites: Complete an academic course that consists of 200 didactic hours, of which 100 must be devoted to the study of fundamental laboratory technology, and 120 hours of clinical laboratory experience or have 1040 hours of work experience in the past three years in laboratory technology. Eligible candidates must then pass a 200 multiple choice exam.
- Renewal: To maintain this credential, certificate holders must pay a $60 annual fee and report 30 Certification Continuation Program points every three years.
Become a Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA-ASCP)
- Offered by: American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
- Prerequisites: There are six ways a candidate can be eligible to earn an MLA certification. They are: a high school diploma and completion of a NAACLS approved Clinical Assistant (CA) program, a high school diploma, and a 50-week U.S. military medical laboratory training course, a high school diploma and two years of full-time clinical experience as a laboratory assistant, an associate’s degree and one year of full-time clinical experience as a laboratory assistant, a valid ASCP Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) certification and one year of full-time clinical experience as a laboratory assistant, a high school diploma, or successful completion of an acceptable two-part formal structured medical laboratory assistant (MLA) program, and six months of full-time clinical experience as a laboratory assistant. Candidates must also pass a 100 multiple choice exam.
- Renewal: The MLA certificate must be renewed every three years and must be accompanied by 9 points of learning activities for the Credential Maintenance Program (CMP).