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

Although the two may sound similar, a medical laboratory scientist (MLS) and medical laboratory technician (MLT) have distinct roles. An MLT works in laboratory settings performing chemical analyses of body fluids through the use of 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.

A medical lab scientist (previously known as a medical technologist or MT) typically has more advanced training, uncovering and providing laboratory information from an analysis that can help physicians in diagnosing and treating patients. They may also assist in disease monitoring or prevention, and they use the latest biomedical technology and methods for testing.

Not only are the responsibilities different between scientist and technician, but the education requirements are as well. Technicians can find entry-level positions with an associate’s degree while medical lab scientists generally need at least a bachelor’s degree in medical lab science, clinical chemistry, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, or a similar field.

Since education requirements vary, so do salaries. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual median pay for an MLT was about $51,770 in 2017, while medical laboratory scientists enjoyed an $82,000 median salary.

Those interested in advancing to MLS from an MLT 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 programs (or MLT-to-MT programs) provide a convenient way 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

To be admitted to bachelor’s degree completion programs in medical laboratory science, students must meet several admissions requirements. 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 eight reputable online bachelor’s degree completion programs for students wishing to advance their career from medical lab technician to medical lab scientists.

Louisiana State University of Alexandria

This online bachelor of science program in medical laboratory science teaches students how to assist physicians in the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of diseases. Students must have an associate’s degree in medical laboratory science from an accredited program and be nationally certified as an MLT to be admitted to the program.

The 120-credit curriculum includes general education topics as well as core courses in subjects such as microbiology, organic chemistry, and hematology. This program is designed to prepare students to apply and seek national MLS certification.

  • Location: Alexandria, Louisiana
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS)
  • Format: Online with some on-campus requirements
  • Tuition: $259.78 per credit
  • Program length: As little as 20 months

University of Nebraska

This entirely online 43-credit 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 on a flexible schedule 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.

  • Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC), NAACLS
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $363.25 per credit
  • Program length: As little as two years

Weber State University

The Weber State University Dumke College of Health Professions offers both an online associate’s degree in MLT and an online bachelor’s in MLS. 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 is designed to 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.

  • Location: Ogden, Utah
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $4,773 per semester for in-state students; $14,321 per semester for out-of-state students
  • Program length: As little as two years

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 degree. Admissions are open to employed certified medical laboratory technicians who 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 and clinical immunodiagnostics.

  • Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $339 per credit
  • Program length: As little as two years

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 provide students with knowledge of hematology, hemostasis, chemistry, molecular diagnostics, immunohematology, immunology and specialized testing. Clinical practice is another part of the program so that 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 as well as general education requirements.

  • Location: Brookings, South Dakota
  • Accreditation: NAACLS
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $335 per credit-hour
  • Program length: As little as two years

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 associate’s degree in MLT. There are two plans available to LEAP students: a three-year degree and an accelerated two-year degree. Courses include basic methods and introduction to lab operations, hematology and coagulation, biochemistry, urinalysis and body fluids, methodology development and assessment, and advanced microbiology.

This school’s distance education programs offer students an opportunity to complete a majority 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: SACSCOC
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $50 per credit for in-state students; $465 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Program length: As little as two years

Marshall University

Marshall University offers an online bachelor of science in medical laboratory science for students who have their associate’s degree in MLT. The program is designed so that students can take courses while also working in a clinical laboratory. The program is open to graduates of any NAACLS-accredited MLT programs. Courses concentrate on flow cytometry, blood bank analysis, serology, immunology, clinical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, and parasitology.

  • Location: Huntington, West Virginia
  • Accreditation: HLC, NAACLS
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $5,856 per semester
  • Program length: As little as two years

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 who have a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or a related field. Courses include principles of chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, clinical laboratory methodologies and molecular diagnostics, and urinalysis and body fluids. Students in both programs will graduate with the knowledge needed to complete an MLS certification exam.

  • Location: Savannah, Georgia
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $7,422 full time; out-of-state: $20,904
  • Program length: As little as two years

Online MLS Professors to Know

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

Dr. Doig is an adjunct professor emeritus at Michigan State University. With a doctorate in adult and continuing education from Michigan State, she focuses on course and curriculum development, the professionalization of occupations, and workforce issues in medical laboratories. She first joined MSU in 1976 and left to direct a hospital-based laboratory education program. She returned two decades later as the clinical coordinator for the undergraduate clinical laboratory sciences major. She served as president of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science-Michigan and the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA), as well as many other positions within the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). The school honored Dr. Doig with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 for her dedication to the school’s success. Her publications on workforce issues in medical laboratories have received several awards.

Dr. Firmani is the director of the medical laboratory sciences program at George Washington University. She has more than ten years of experience as an educator and researcher, and she currently teaches clinical microbiology and molecular diagnostics in the medical laboratory science program. Dr. Firmani has published her work in influential textbooks and peer-reviewed journals, such as Infection and Immunity and the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. She was previously the head of a research laboratory where she researched Mycobacterium tuberculosis and mentored undergraduates and graduates in their projects. Dr. Firmani graduated from Marist College and completed her master of science in public health at Tulane University. She also obtained her doctorate from University of California, Berkeley.

Karen Honeycutt is director of the medical laboratory science program 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 been the recipient of many honors, including the Clarence and Nelle Gilg Professorship for Teaching Excellence in Innovation in Allied Health in 2016. Dr. Honeycutt completed her master’s of education and bachelor’s in medical technology at the University of Nebraska and is currently completing her doctorate in educational studies at the same school.