Accredited Online Medical Lab Technician Degree Programs

Job opportunities for medical lab technicians (MLT) are increasing rapidly. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) found that positions for medical and clinical lab techs were expected to swell 16 percent between 2014 and 2024, adding 52,100 fresh openings in this field nationally. This is more than double the average growth anticipated across all occupations during that same decade (6.5 percent). Furthermore, the 166,730 skilled professionals in this field earned an average annual salary of $62,440 (BLS May 2016) in the US, 25.8 percent higher than the average salary for all American occupations at $49,630 (BLS). In short, this is a relatively high-growth and lucrative occupation which is expected to have a wealth of openings in the years to come.

While many aspiring MLTs are deciding to enroll in traditional, on-campus programs, a growing number are pursuing their degree online. Currently there are several online medical lab technician degrees from reputable schools, driven in part by the demand for people in this field as the industry expands. These associate degrees generally take two years to complete.

So how does an online MLT program work? These typically combine rigorous distance-based coursework and laboratory experiences completed on campus or at approved facilities located close to a student’s home, where mentors progressively sign off on skills attained. It’s important to note that due to the requisite lab training in these degree programs, online MLT degrees are typically “hybrid” and involve a combination of in-person and web-based learning experiences. That said, those aspiring to become MLTs in the past used to be constrained by geographic or time-based considerations; however, distance-based MLT programs have opened up more convenient opportunities for people to study this in-demand discipline.

And who should enroll in an online MLT program? One of the groups which directly benefits from having flexible, web-based learning is working professionals. Online programs allow people to keep their jobs and stay in their communities as opposed to having to relocate. Furthermore, an online MLT program may prove a great option for parents with significant childcare responsibilities or for others with strict schedules. Of course, anyone who wishes to pursue a degree in this subject may benefit from the relative flexibility of an online program. Those who succeed are generally self-starting and have excellent discipline.

This piece gives an overview of what to expect from an online medical laboratory technician program, including discussions of admissions requirements, typical coursework, and exemplary online MLT schools.

Admissions Requirements for Online Medical Lab Technician Degree Programs

The application materials for online medical lab technician degree programs vary by institution, but they typically include:

  • Official transcripts from last school attended with proof of prerequisite coursework (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics)
  • Competitive GPA (e.g., >3.0)
  • Personal statement or letter of intent (500-600 words)
  • Test scores (e.g., SAT, ACT, GRE, or TOEFL for ESL students)
  • Application fee

Please note that some programs may ask for candidate interviews, letters of recommendation from employers or professors, or sample work in a clinical portfolio. Also, some programs may accept students without either a diploma or a GED, such as the program at SUNY Broome Community College. Of course, these students will need to complete a number of college-level courses before they will be granted admissions. Still other online MLT programs require applicants to be actively working at a hospital, a ready-made location to complete one’s clinical hours.

Online MLT School Accreditation & State Authorization

Prior to seeking enrollment in a distance-based medical lab tech program, aspiring students are strongly encouraged to verify its accreditation and state authorization statuses.

First, there are varied organizations which accredit MLT programs and institutions. The predominant programmatic accreditation body in this field is the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), which “in collaboration with its professional organizations, provides comprehensive services including program accreditation, program approval, consultation, and continuing education.” There are also institutional accreditation bodies, including six regional organizations recognized by the US Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Graduation from an accredited program is a prerequisite in order to sit for the medical lab technician certification examination administered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification. In some states, this certification is a requirement in order to work in this field; regardless one’s state of residence, credentialing shows that the holder has achieved a certain level of subject area knowledge and expertise.

Secondly, most distance-based schools disclose their “state authorization” status on their websites, detailing the states from which they cannot accept students. Due to differing legislation surrounding the provision of distance-based education, institutions physically located in one state may not be able to accept program candidates from students residing in other specific states. If this information isn’t readily available on program websites, be sure to contact program coordinators to ensure eligibility.

Finally, aspiring online MLT students should also check how many campus visits are required in their desired programs. Particularly at the associate degree level, there are no programs offered 100 percent online due to the hands-on nature of laboratory technology. All of the following programs are considered hybrid or blended learning, a mix of online and in-person experiences. What is flexible, however, is the location where a student completes his or her clinical training.

Curriculum & MLT Specializations

While the medical lab technology curriculum varies by degree level and institution, there are some commonalities. Students in these programs typically complete coursework in areas including:

  • Hematology
  • Urinalysis
  • Microbiology
  • Immunohematology
  • Serology
  • Clinical chemistry

As stressed above, online MLT programs typically require students to participate in clinical practicum courses, in addition to their distance-based coursework. Often this will be at the campus itself, or it may be at a location conveniently accessible for distance learning students.

Also, some online medical lab technician degree programs may allow students to specialize in a specific field of laboratory science, although this will not always be possible. Where this option is available, students may have the chance to specialize in areas such as

  • Blood-banking
  • Histotechnology
  • Phlebotomy

In general, specializations available reflect the available certifications in medical lab technology. The main certifying organizations in this field include the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Medical Technologists (AMT), or the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB). For example, the ASCP provides certifications in phlebotomy, donor phlebotomy, and histotechnology, as well as a general medical lab technician credential. Overall, online MLT students should ensure that their program aligns with their credentialing goals.

Online Medical Lab Technician Degree Programs

Many aspiring medical lab technicians may be hesitant to consider applying to an online degree program, assuming that the educational opportunities are not as developed as those at their traditional, on-campus counterparts. However, a number of highly regarded schools are currently offer MLT degrees online, including the following five accredited programs, several of which are included among the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) Guide to Online MLT Programs. The ASCLS is a partner of the NAACLS.

As mentioned above, due to the hands-on nature of being a medical laboratory technician or technologist, these programs require some in-person component and may be considered blended or hybrid learning, and some require students to reside in the immediate geographic region, such as in a bordering state.

SUNY Broome Community College (Binghamton, NY)

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)

Students at SUNY Broome Community College can pursue an online associate in applied science (AAS) in clinical laboratory science. The school website states that students must reside in the “immediate geographical location of the college,” even if they aren’t required to come to campus often. Over the four semesters, students take classes on hematology & coagulation, urinalysis & body fluids, microbiology, anatomy & physiology, pathogenic microbiology, immunohematology, statistics, and other subjects. Students are also required to complete 400 clinical training hours in approved medical facilities. SUNY Broome Community College provides a list of affiliated clinical locations, although students residing elsewhere can seek approval to precept at clinical locations in their specific geographic location. Graduates of the program are eligible for New York State licensure and national certification. For the 2016-17 year, this program costs $2,209 per semester for NY state residents and $4,418 for out-of-state students.

Rasmussen College (Oak Brook, IL)

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

At Rasmussen College, students have the ability to pursue a medical lab technician associate degree in a blended format, which includes both online and on-campus coursework and experience. Students may be eligible to graduate from this program in as little as 21 months, and will take courses on subjects such as blood banking, microbiology, clinical chemistry, hematology, and an MLT capstone. This program also includes a mandatory 12-credit hour clinical practicum, which helps prepare enrolled students for the work they will likely perform when they begin working in this industry. Students who successfully complete this program will be eligible to apply to take the national certification examination in order to become certified as medical lab technicians. To estimate how much this blended program costs, please use Rasmussen’s tuition estimator.

Weber State University (Ogden, UT)

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)

Weber State University offers an online medical lab technician AAS degree that can be completed in two years. This program is open to those currently employed in a hospital or clinical laboratory. The admissions standards for this specific program are slightly more stringent than others; specifically, this program requires admitted students to possess an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher, and the same students must have completed at least 20 college credits and at least three college courses in certain subject areas, including chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, and microbiology. Classes in the program include introduction to laboratory sciences, principles of clinical hematology & hemostatis, clinical chemistry, and clinical microbiology, among others. The tuition for this 63-credit program is $252 per credit hour. Students are eligible to sit for a national certification examination upon completion of the program.

Barton Community College (Great Bend, KS)

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

Aspiring MLTs studying at Barton Community College have the opportunity to pursue a hybrid medical lab technician associate of applied science degree. Graduates may be eligible to sit for national certification examinations. Students in this program are only required to visit the Great Bend, Kansas campus location for their MLT pinning ceremony, but they must visit an affiliated campus location periodically. Those residing in central and western Kansas, for example, visit the main Barton campus near Great Bend. Those in the northeast or Kansas City metropolitan area meet in Overland Park. There are other facilities available, a full list of which are available from the school. Students in this program have the option to work with an advisor who will help them create a personally tailored plan of study to help meet their individual needs. The school also offers a cooperative lab on campus, or the ability to work with a supporting cooperative laboratory/clinic in students’ living areas as they arrange it. Courses include urinalysis & body fluids, immunohematology, human parasitology, mycobacterium & mycology, and human parasitology, among others. The program requires the completion of 68 credit hours in total, and tuition for this specific program is $150 per credit hour for the 2016-17 school year for online students.

Albany State University, formerly Darton State College (Albany, GA)

Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS),

At Darton State College, students are able to pursue an online associate of science (AS) degree in medical lab technology. Before students will be granted admissions to this program, they must show successful completion of certain prerequisite courses, including anatomy & physiology, public speaking, English composition, college algebra, and American government. The program generally takes 1.5 to two years to complete, or 70 credit hours for the entirety of the program. At $130 per individual credit hour, the total tuition for this program is $9,100 as of April 2017.

Please note that there are additional blended and online MLT programs available from the following institutions. These have similar coursework and clinical requirements to those associate degree programs profiled above: