Accredited Online Medical Laboratory Science Degrees

Medical laboratory scientists fulfill an invaluable function in a healthcare setting: they work behind the scenes to ensure the scientific integrity of medical diagnoses. The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) states that medical lab scientists (at times referred to as medical technologists) are “vital healthcare detectives, uncovering and providing information from laboratory analyses that assist physicians in patient diagnosis and treatment, as well as in disease monitoring and prevention.” Specifically, these professionals perform a battery of tests that incorporate various disciplines such as microbiology, immunohematology, and molecular biology, among others.

Notably, those seeking to work as medical laboratory scientists are joining a growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), openings for medical and clinical technologists are expected to rise 12 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2026, nearly double the average growth projected across all occupations during that same decade (7 percent). Furthermore, the BLS (2017) reported that medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned an average annual salary of $52,330, higher than the average salary across all US occupations ($50,620). Because BLS data incorporates both technologists and technicians (who tend to be paid less), expected salaries for the MLS profession specifically is likely to be higher. In sum, medical laboratory science is a lucrative career with increasing job opportunities.

It is important to distinguish between medical laboratory scientists (i.e., technologists) and medical laboratory technicians. A technologist typically has at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, while a technician may have a two-year postsecondary certificate or associate degree. As a result, a medical lab scientist generally boasts more advanced abilities, certification opportunities, and management potential compared to a technician in the same field.

Prior to seeking employment, an aspiring medical laboratory scientist must get the requisite training and credentialing. Many people in this line of work still attend on-campus degree programs, although for those with significant scheduling or geographic limitations, there are a growing number of distance-based medical lab science (MLS) programs available from accredited institutions across the country.

This page examines some of the accredited online medical laboratory science programs in the US, detailing the admissions requirements, coursework, and expected tuition to prepare an individual for this high-growth career field.

How Do Online Medical Lab Science Programs Work?

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Though not all students will benefit from an online program in medical lab science (MLS) or clinical lab science (CLS), this type of educational experience does offer specific advantages such as flexibility with respect to time and physical location. First, online programs generally include both asynchronous and synchronous coursework. In this type of program, students complete two types of assignments: those that can be completed on any schedule the student chooses, so long as it is done on time, and those that require students to login for courses at a specific time for live participation with other students and faculty. Students in distance-based programs have the chance to pursue a degree without living close to a campus, although some schools may require periodic visits throughout the semester or year. In addition to coursework, students in online MLS programs typically must complete clinical hours at approved healthcare facilities to ensure that they are receiving adequate supervised hands-on training. Training sites are typically located close to a student’s home.

Above all, students in online MLS programs require self-discipline, self-motivation, and time management skills to succeed.

Admissions Requirements for Online MLS Programs

Like all higher educational programs, online degree programs in medical lab science require students to meet specific prerequisites before they can enroll.

In general, all aspiring online MLS students are required to submit the following for admissions:

  • High school diploma or GED with proof of specific coursework (e.g., chemistry, biology, physics, algebra, etc.)
  • Solid GPA (e.g., greater than 3.0)
  • Personal statement or letter of intent (500-600 words)
  • Application fee

Additionally, some programs may ask for letters of recommendation, a CV/resume, a candidate interview, or SAT/ACT scores. In some cases, students may need an associate degree for admissions or active certification as a medical lab technician to qualify for an online bachelor’s degree program.

Finally, aspiring medical lab scientists should note that many programs require that students follow the same general calendar as the on-campus institution, abiding by the timeline of semester start- and end-dates, exam windows, and other important program milestones.

Curriculum & MLS Specializations

Although the curriculum for online medical lab science degree programs varies from school to school, students will take similar courses at any institution. A two- to four-year online MLS program typically includes instruction in the following:

  • Clinical immunology
  • Fluid analysis
  • Statistics
  • Hemostasis
  • Molecular biology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunohematology
  • Chemistry
  • Clinical practice
  • Laboratory concepts
  • Laboratory operations

Furthermore, some programs may provide the opportunity for students to specialize in a certain field within medical laboratory science. For example, students may open up the prospect of achieving multiple certifications upon graduation by pursuing additional skills in the following areas:

  • Urinalysis
  • Serology
  • Hemostasis
  • Immunohematology
  • Microbiology
  • Flow cytometry
  • Clinical chemistry
  • Hematology

It is important to note that these specialization opportunities will not be available at all institutions. Students interested in further developing their skills in one of these areas should reference program websites or reach out to program coordinators directly to verify that their preferred course of study is available before applying for admissions.

Accredited Online Medical Laboratory Science Programs

Following is a list of accredited online programs that enable aspiring medical lab scientists to prepare for this high-growth career field. Prior to applying to any program, students are advised to verify its state authorization and accreditation statuses. State authorization refers to the ability of an online college in one state to offer distance-based education to residents of other states. Regarding the latter, potential applicants can review the ‘accreditation’ section below to learn about how programs are approved by reputable national organizations. Note that all of the following schools boast both programmatic and institutional accreditation.

University of Cincinnati

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

At the University of Cincinnati, students are able to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medical lab science entirely online. This post-associate degree program generally takes two years to complete, including 60 credit hours of instruction in areas such as clinical fluid analysis, statistics, hemostasis, clinical chemistry, and other cornerstones of the discipline. Notably, UC’s online program graduates in 2016 boasted a 90.3 percent passing rate on the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) certification exam, while only 79.8 percent of test-takers nationally passed in that same year. Also, UC requires no campus visits, making it ideal for busy working professionals. Students can access their coursework at any point throughout the day, and have the option of taking between seven to ten credit hours per term. Students in the 2015-2016 school year paid tuition of either $466 per credit hour (OH residents) or $481 per credit hour (non-OH residents).

Weber State University

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

Students at Weber State University of Ogden, UT have the option of pursuing either an online associate of applied science (AAS) degree or a bachelor of science (BS) degree in medical lab science. Aspiring students must have at least 20 hours of qualifying college credit to apply for either online program, and must apply to both WSU’s general and program-specific admissions offices. Students applying to the BS program must be MLT (ASCP) certified (in lieu of MLT (ASCP) certification, MT(AMT) or MT(AAB), and some state certifications are also accepted). All courses for WSU’s degree programs are available entirely online. The distance-based AAS includes 63 credit hours of instruction in areas such as principles of hematology & hemostasis; clinical chemistry; clinical microbiology; and immunohematology. The online BS has 120 credits of coursework in advanced clinical micro & molecular diagnostics, among other subject areas. Students are not required to visit the campus throughout the course of their studies, although they are encouraged to attend graduation, if possible. Students in WSU’s online undergraduate programs as of 2018 pay $4,892 per year (for Utah residents) or $14,679 per year for out-of-state students. Tuition is always subject to change from year to year and full tuition details are available on the school’s website.

Texas Tech University

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center of Lubbock provides an opportunity for students to obtain a second degree online in clinical laboratory science in one year of study. To qualify for admissions, students must have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. Courses include clinical bacteriology, urinalysis & body fluids, parasitology & mycology, and laboratory management. All didactic material is delivered online, although the program includes a six-day on-site laboratory session at the end of each semester (two sessions total). The program consists of 35 credit hours of study. For the 2018-19 school year, TTUHSC’s tuition costs $11,046 (TX resident) or $23,496 (non-TX resident).

George Washington University

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSCHE)

Students at George Washington University in Washington, DC may enroll in the blended medical lab science BS program, which combines both online and on-campus courses. To qualify for admissions, applicants must have 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university. In the program, students complete an additional 60 credit hours at George Washington in general education, electives, and medical lab science major courses. This hybrid program requires coursework in immunology & serology, clinical microbiology, molecular diagnostics, and a capstone seminar. The tuition rates for the 2018-2019 year are $595 per credit hour, although this is reduced to $250 per credit hour for active-duty military personnel.

The program is split into two phases: during phase one, students complete online courses in order to broaden their knowledge of the subject area, in addition to four months of clinical practica and labs at the Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, VA. In phase two, students perform clinical courses in a laboratory for eight hours per day, five days per week. GWU also has a fully online MLT-to-MLS BS program open to certified medical laboratory technicians seeking to advance their skills.

University of Southern Mississippi

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

At the University of Southern Mississippi based in Hattiesburg, students are able to enroll in a 36 credit hour online MLS graduate program. Qualifying students typically have certification as a medical technologist from a recognized national certifying agency (e.g., ASCP). Applicants who do not hold active national certification must complete an additional 46-hour practicum in order to successfully complete the program. Courses include toxicology, comparative diagnosis of microbial pathogens, clinical laboratory management, and clinical oncology, among others. Students in this program must maintain a 3.0 or greater GPA in order to graduate.

Medical Laboratory Science Program Accreditation

Before applying to a specific program, aspiring students are strongly advised to ensure that their program is accredited. This program and institutional approval process ensures that there is a baseline standard of quality with respect to curriculum, program facilities, student outcomes, and other important measures of educational effectiveness.

The predominant programmatic accreditation agency in medical laboratory science is the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). The NAACLS accreditation process is specific to the MLS program being offered. Graduation from a NAACLS-accredited program is a requirement to sit for the certification examination administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). In some states, certification and/or state licensure is required to work as a medical laboratory scientist. For details, students contact local MLS associations or state credentialing organizations.

In addition to programmtic accreditation, there are six regional, institutional accreditation agencies which have been recognized by the US Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Accreditiation from one of these organizations is applicable to the institution as a whole. However, while institutional accreditation is important, it does not render a graduate elgible for certification through ASCP. The CHEA-approved institutional accrediting agencies include: