MLT to MLS - Online Bachelor's Degree Completion Programs in Medical Lab Science

Although the two may sound similar, a medical laboratory scientist (MLS) differs greatly from a medical laboratory technician (MLT). An MLT works in laboratory settings performing chemical analyses of body fluids using a microscope or automatic analyzer. They also set up, maintain, calibrate, clean, and test the sterility of medical laboratory equipment. They may even match blood compatibility for transfusions and analyze the chemical content of fluids.

An MLS, on the other hand, typically has more advanced training, uncovering and providing laboratory information from an analysis that can help physicians diagnose and treat patients. They may also assist in disease monitoring or prevention, using the latest biomedical technology and methods for testing.

The responsibilities are different between scientists and technicians, and the education requirements are also different. Technicians can find entry-level positions with an associate’s degree while medical lab scientists generally need at least a bachelor’s degree in clinical chemistry, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, or a similar field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median pay for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) was about $57,800 in May 2022.

Those interested in advancing from an MLT to an MLS role should consider enrolling in an online degree completion program in medical laboratory science. Degree completion programs are designed for students who hold associate degrees in the fundamentals of a discipline and wish to complete their bachelor’s. Online degree completion programs offer students the flexibility to complete their degrees, even when they do not live close to a college campus or have time commitments preventing them from attending a traditional program.

Overall, online MLT-to-MLS are convenient for professionals to gain the necessary education and be more competitive in today’s healthcare workplace. Read on to discover what to expect from a distance-based MLS degree completion program, including the coursework, tuition, and three standout professors.

Admissions Requirements

Students must meet several admissions requirements to be admitted to bachelor’s degree completion programs in medical laboratory science. Each college or university is different, so students should always check with each school for specific requirements. Following are some typical admissions requests:

  • A high cumulative GPA (e.g., >3.0)
  • An associate’s degree in medical laboratory science
  • Minimum of two years of college credits in prerequisite coursework (e.g., math, chemistry, and biology)
  • National certification as an MLT
  • A written personal statement describing knowledge of and passion for the field
  • Scores for IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL for international students

Featured Online MLT-to-MLS Programs

The following explores ten reputable online bachelor’s degree completion programs for students wishing to advance their careers from medical lab technicians to medical lab scientists.

Georgia Southern University

GSU offers an MLT-to-MLS online “career ladder program” for MLTs. This program is explicitly designed for working professionals who are already MLT-certified. However, the school also offers an online accelerated MLS program for students with bachelor’s degrees in biology, chemistry, or a related field.

Courses in this 124-credit curriculum include human anatomy and physiology; microorganisms and disease; clinical urinalysis, body fluids, and hemostasis; clinical bacteriology; clinical hematology; clinical immunohematology; clinical methodology & molecular diagnosis; clinical immunology; and clinical decisions & analysis. Students in both programs will graduate with the knowledge needed to complete an MLS certification exam.

  • Location: Savannah, Georgia
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: As little as two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $182.13 per credit

Louisiana State University of Alexandria

This online bachelor of science program in medical laboratory science teaches students how to assist physicians in diagnosing, treating, and monitoring diseases. Students must have an MLT or CLT associate degree program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS) and be nationally certified as an MLT, CLT, or equivalent to be admitted to the program.

The 120-credit curriculum includes general education topics and core courses in microbiology; organic chemistry; biochemistry; molecular diagnostics; pathogenic microbiology; and hematology. This program prepares students to apply and seek national MLS certification. Students in this degree completion program will complete 48 credits.

Graduates of the program will have career opportunities in product development, consumer-product testing, forensic science, and chemical and materials science.

  • Location: Alexandria, Louisiana
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Format: Online with some on-campus requirements
  • Expected Time to Completion: As little as 20 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $325 per credit

Marshall University

Marshall University offers an online bachelor of science in medical laboratory science for students with an MLT associate degree. The program is designed so students can take courses while working in a clinical laboratory. The program is open to graduates of any NAACLS-accredited MLT programs.

Sample some of the courses in the curriculum: introduction to organic chemistry; diagnostic physiology; advanced clinical chemistry; advanced immunohematology; advanced hematology; advanced clinical microbiology; laboratory research; and laboratory instrumentation. A maximum of only 72 credit hours from community colleges can be applied towards the minimum 120 hours required for graduation.

  • Location: Huntington, West Virginia
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: As little as two years
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident of WV ($4,471 per semester); non-resident of WV ($10,147 per semester); metro residents ($6,560 per semester)

South Dakota State University

This SDSU program is called the “medical laboratory science upward mobility bachelor’s degree” and as the name implies, is designed to help MLTs progress to better positions with higher pay and more responsibilities. The courses teach students hematology, hemostasis, chemistry, molecular diagnostics, immunohematology, immunology, and specialized testing. Clinical practice is another part of the program so students can take the MLS certification examination after graduation.

Students must have at least two years of work experience in a clinical laboratory. They must have also completed an accredited certificate program in medical laboratory science and general education requirements.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as understanding medical laboratory science; diagnostic microbiology; hematology and hemostasis; diagnostic immunology; principles of immunohematology; advanced medical diagnostics; and clinical chemistry.

  • Location: Brookings, South Dakota
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: As little as two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $354.75 per credit

University of Cincinnati

An online bachelor of science in medical laboratory science offered by the University of Cincinnati’s College of Allied Health Sciences is designed for students who have already completed an associate degree program in CLT or MLT. Emphasizing academic and technical skills necessary for today’s medical laboratory scientists, this medical lab science program’s curriculum prepares students for the professionalism, competencies, and ethics outlined by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. Graduates will be ready for the ASCP MLS certification exam.

To be considered for admission, applicants must have earned an associate degree in MLT or CLT from a NAACLS-accredited institution with a minimum grade point average of 2.5 and provide proof of ASCP, AAB, or AMT CLT/MLT certification.

Some of the topics students delve into include special topics in medical laboratory science; clinical immunology; clinical fluid analysis; clinical microbiology; principles of immunohematology; hematology; hemostasis; diagnostic molecular biology; and clinical chemistry.

Graduates will be prepared for positions such as clinical supervisors, pharmaceutical representatives, technical specialists, and laboratory information specialists.

  • Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($571 per credit); non-resident ($586 per credit)

University of Nebraska

This entirely online bachelor of science in medical laboratory science program is a degree advancement option (DAO) offered through the University of Nebraska Medical Center for working MLTs and clinical laboratory technicians. Students can complete all coursework flexibly and graduate with the skills necessary to become medical and laboratory technologists or technicians.

Students take 35 credits of theory and practical application experiences across multiple disciplines including hematology, clinical chemistry, microbiology, immunohematology, immunology, and molecular diagnostics and management.

Applicants to this degree advancement option must either graduate from a NAACLS-accredited MLT or CLT program, or complete a U.S. military-sponsored medical laboratory procedures educational program, or graduate from a non-NAACLS accredited MLT or CLT program with MLT certification. Additional requirements include completing at least 85 hours of specific college prerequisite courses with a GPA of at least 2.5. Applicants must be working as a laboratory MLT or CLT.

  • Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: As little as two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $341 per credit

University of Southern Mississippi

The online MLS degree from Southern Mississippi is designed for working medical laboratory technicians who want to earn their bachelor’s degrees. Admissions are open to employed certified medical laboratory technicians who have completed an accredited MLT associate of applied science degree and have at least two years of work experience.

Courses include biology and society; general chemistry; and physics, as well as specialty classes like introduction to medical laboratory science; clinical bacteriology; clinical parasitology; clinical immunodiagnostics; fundamentals of hematology; blood bank; urinalysis; and clinical microbiology.

  • Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: As little as two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $389.59 per credit

University of Texas Medical Branch

UTMB’s School of Health Professions created a laboratory education and advancement program for students (LEAP) who have completed an MLT associate degree. Two plans are available to LEAP students: a three-year degree and an accelerated two-year degree.

Courses include fundamentals of immunology; biochemistry; clinical laboratory science management skills; advanced microbiology; clinical chemistry; immunohematology; coagulation and hematology; molecular biology; and professional education methods.

This school’s distance education programs allow students to complete most of their coursework at a distance through streaming video and lectures, web-based lessons, interactive course labs utilizing video and animation, chat sessions, and online testing.

  • Location: Galveston, Texas
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Format: Online
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to three years
  • Estimated Tuition: Texas resident ($50 per credit); non-Texas resident ($458 per credit) 

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida offers an online BS in clinical lab sciences program preparing trained medical lab technicians to advance their careers, sit for the ASCP national exam, and become medical lab scientists. This online program is ideal for MLTs who are ready to further their careers with a bachelor’s degree and earn an MLS credential. Students in this program will become competent in a wide range of clinical laboratory tests such as blood bank, molecular diagnostics, hematology, diagnostic microbiology, clinical immunology, and clinical chemistry.

Applicants to the program must either have an associate of science in medical laboratory technology or military training as a medical laboratory technician and have an associate of arts degree. They must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and be certified as MLTs by ASCP, AMT, or AAB.

Comprising 120 credits total, the program’s major consists of 48 credits. The curriculum includes courses such as molecular diagnostics; clinical immunology; urinalysis or body fluids; hematology; hemostasis and thrombosis; diagnostic microbiology; medical microbiology; immunohematology; and clinical chemistry. On average, students with their MLT transfer in approximately 40 credits.

    • Location: Pensacola, Florida
    • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
    • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
    • Estimated Tuition: Florida residents ($182.13 per credit hour); non-Florida residents ($648.37 per credit hour) 
  • Weber State University

    The Weber State University Dumke College of Health Professions offers an online MLT associate’s degree and an MLS online bachelor’s degree. Weber State University is the first school in the world to develop an online medical laboratory sciences program for both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. The bachelor’s degree will advance working professionals from MLT to MLS.

    As an open-enrollment institution, students first apply for general admissions and then to the online MLS program. Students are assigned a variety of project-based courses, as well as advanced clinical courses in microbiology, hematology, and blood bank. Courses include an introduction to laboratory practices; principles of hematology and hemostasis; and advanced clinical micro and molecular diagnostics. Core requirements are made up of 41 credits.

    The online bachelor’s degree is for students already working as certified MLTs and needing a flexible course schedule. As a graduate in medical laboratory sciences, students will be able to work in various growing and high-demand healthcare settings such as research institutions, clinics, hospitals and physician practices, veterinary clinics, pharmaceutical labs, public health, forensic labs, and blood donation or transplant centers.

    • Location: Ogden, Utah
    • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS); Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
    • Format: Online
    • Expected Time to Completion: As little as two years
    • Estimated Tuition: $219 to $387 per credit hour

Online MLS Professors to Know

Below are three medical laboratory science professors at accredited colleges and universities in the country.

Dr. Pamela Meadows joined the Marshall University faculty in August 2012, serving as an associate professor of clinical laboratory sciences. She teaches courses in clinical hematology; advanced immunohematology, clinical immunohematology; clinical laboratory problems; and diagnostic physiology. She is also the coordinator for MLT clinical experiences.

Working part-time as a technologist at CAMC, Dr. Meadows has over twenty years of experience in the clinical laboratory. She earned her BS in medical technology, MS in health care administration, and a PhD in educational leadership all from Marshall University.

Dr. Karen Honeycutt is the medical laboratory science program director at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She is interested in exploring practical educational methods, multimedia platforms, and clinical laboratory science education. She belongs to the National Microbiology Examination Committee ASCP Board and has received many honors, including the Clarence and Nelle Gilg Professorship for Teaching Excellence in Innovation in Allied Health in 2016.

Dr. Honeycutt completed her bachelor’s in medical technology, master’s of education, and a doctorate in educational studies from the University of Nebraska.

Rajkumar Rajendran is an assistant professor of instruction in the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Currently working as an instructor teaching both graduate and doctoral CLS students in on-campus and online courses, Rajkumar Rajendran teaches or has taught courses such as evidence-based practice; urinalysis, body fluids and parasitology; microbiology; molecular biology; introduction to basic laboratory operations; and fundamentals of immunology. Being involved in CLS education for the past eight years, he also has previous clinical work experience as a Medical Laboratory Scientist. He completed his PhD, MS, and BS in clinical laboratory sciences from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and also has a BS with a major in biology and minor in chemistry from Lamar University.

Farheen Gani
Farheen Gani Writer

Farheen Gani is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).