Medical Lab Technician Salary - How Much Do MLTs Make?
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Medical lab technicians (MLTs) work in a laboratory setting, assisting in the analysis of biomedical samples. The results of their work are provided to physicians and other healthcare practitioners to help diagnose and treat patients.
Due to the technical nature of the work, medical lab technicians must be diligent, precise, and must possess a specialized skill set developed through rigorous coursework and hands-on training. The work of MLTs is not patient-facing, so by and large, the MLT role is suited to those who are attentive and who enjoy the routine nature of lab work without much, or any, patient interaction.
Those who make the time and effort to become a medical lab technician find their work rewarding and financially lucrative. While medical lab technicians may not earn as much as doctors or nurses, they are still compensated well for their work.
Furthermore, the demand for MLTs is relatively high, and the field is projected to grow steadily in the coming years. Indeed, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, a similar occupational title, will grow by 7 percent between 2019 and 2029 (BLS 2020). This occupational growth rate is faster than the national average for all occupations (4 percent) and will create an estimated 24,700 jobs in the same decade.
Having MLT training and skills means aspiring medical lab technicians should be well-prepared to navigate job offer negotiations with comparative data and realistic expectations. Compensation for MLT positions depends on several factors, including experience, certification, and location of employment. Here is a reference guide of MLT salary breakdowns by percentiles, regions, experience, and workplace to help determine earning prospects.
MLT Salary Overall
Data from the BLS shows that clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, a similar occupational title for MLTs, earn about the same average annual salary for all occupations nationwide. The average annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technologists is $55,990 (BLS May 2020), compared to the national average for all occupations at $56,310 (BLS May 2020). The data for MLTs is broken down into the following percentiles:
- 10th percentile – $31,450 per year or $15.12 per hour
- 25th percentile – $39,680 per year or $19.08 per hour
- 50th percentile (median) – $54,180 per year or $26.05 per hour
- 75th percentile – $69,650 per year or $33.48 per hour
- 90th percentile – $83,700 per year or $40.24 per hour
Here, it is helpful to note that two separate sources report different numbers in terms of the average salary earned by medical lab technicians.
The BLS shows the average salary is $55,990, with 337,800 MTLs employed nationwide. In contrast, PayScale, a self-reported aggregate of salary data, asserts the annual average wage for MLTs is $42,452 per year based on 3,128 individuals reporting (PayScale April 2021).
While there’s a vast difference of $13,500 between these two figures, it can be asserted that the BLS data shows a more accurate portrayal of all MLTs employed nationwide since PayScale’s reporting figures represent only 1 percent of the total number of MLTs at 3,128 compared to the 337,800 total employed MLTs as reported by the BLS.
MLT Salary by State
As is the case with many other careers, the salary for medical lab technicians will vary significantly depending on location. Several factors will affect the level of compensation a medical lab technician will receive, including local MLT supply, demand, and cost of living.
Here are the states with the highest average annual MLT salaries (BLS May 2020):
- Alaska: $69,390 per year or $33.36 per hour
- Connecticut: $69,340 per year or $33.34 per hour
- New York: $68,630 per year or $33.00 per hour
- Rhode Island: $68,570 per year or $32.97 per hour
- Oregon: $67,930 per year or $32.66 per hour
While the salaries above may seem higher than average, they don’t factor in the state’s cost of living. While at first glance it may seem that medical lab technician employment would allow for a much higher living standard in these states, it is essential to factor in how much it costs to live in a particular region.
The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) keeps track of such data. It shows the five top-paying states for MLTs are also positioned in the top 10 most expensive states to live in the United States (MERIC 2021). The cost of living is an essential factor to consider when entertaining job offers from different regional areas. MLTs negotiating salary offers are advised to research the cost of living data before accepting a position.
By illustration, here’s a list of five states with the highest concentration of jobs for MLTs (BLS May 2020)—four of which are on the list of the top 30 most affordable states to live (MERIC 2021):
- Massachusetts: 11,460 employed MLTs
- Missouri: 8,920
- Utah: 4,880
- South Dakota: 1,310
- Mississippi: 3,360
Aspiring medical lab technicians should be aware of the likelihood of finding employment in a particular state. For example, while MLTs in Alaska may command the highest average salary out of all 50 states at $69,390, job opportunities are scarce; specifically, there are only 680 throughout the state or a total of .98 per thousand jobs.
By comparison, MLT positions in Tennessee earn $15,000 less with average annual salaries at $54,660, but job opportunities are more plentiful; in this state, there are 8,860 positions or a total of 3.05 per thousand jobs (BLS May 2020).
MLT Salary by Metropolitan Area
High salaries can be concentrated in metropolitan areas with higher costs of living at a more granular level, depending on the population and demand for MLTs in a specific area.
Here are the top-paying metropolitan areas for medical laboratory technicians (BLS May 2020):
- Carson City, V: $78,340 per year or $37.66 per hour
- San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grand, CA: $77,390 per year or $37.21 per hour
- Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA: $75,970 per year or $36,53 per hour
- Barnstable Town, MD: $75,670 per year or $36.38 per hour
- Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA: $74,840 per year or $35.98 per hour
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $74,520 per year or $35.83 per hour
- Anchorage, AK: $73,900 per year or $35.53 per hour
- Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA: $73,140 per year or $35.16 per hour
- Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA: $72,760 per year or $34.98 per hour
- Fairbanks, AK: $72,720 per year or $34.96 per hour
MLT Salary by Experience
Another factor that significantly affects the amount earned by a medical lab technician is work experience or the number of years in which an individual has been active in the profession.
Consider, for example, statistics offered by PayScale (April 2021), which show the average amount an individual may expect to earn based on years of experience:
- National average salary (according to PayScale) – $42,452 per year
- Entry-level salary (less than one year): $36,480
- Early career salary (1-4 years): $38,240
- Mid-career salary (5-9 years): $41,490
- Late career salary (10-19 years): $44,660
- Experienced salary (20 or more years): $49,400
Here, the statistics show that an individual who works in medical lab technology for the duration of their career can earn more than when they first began. Furthermore, the statistics above only account for the national average; thus, those who start at a higher salary (and perform well) might reasonably expect to earn a proportionally higher amount as they gain experience and advance.
MLT Salary by Industry
One last factor that affects the amount of compensation received by a medical lab technician is the type of industry or setting in which they work. To be sure, not all medical lab technicians work in the same environment; and in fact, the job setting can have a substantial effect on the expected salary.
Take, for example, data provided by the BLS that shows the top-paying industries for MLTs (BLS 2020):
- Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers: $87,110 per year
- Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers: $70,140
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: $69,700
- Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing: $64,640
- Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals): $64,180
The data listed above shows that medical laboratory technicians who work in wholesale markets will likely earn, on average, a significant amount more than those who work in specialty markets. It should also be noted that medical laboratory technicians who work in these more specialized industries, such as in dental offices, may also require additional certifications or specializations.
In fact, an MLT who works in a dental office may need to study to become a dental lab technician, which is a related but different occupation. While both are lab-based roles without much patient interaction, medical lab technicians run tests and analyze results, while dental lab technicians focus more on preparing customized orthodontia. For more information on related MLT careers in dentistry, please see our complete guide to dental careers.
Ultimately, working as a medical lab technician often comes with better than average financial compensation than the national average for all occupations. MLTs can enjoy lucrative salaries in all 50 states with years of experience in one or several industries.