Becoming a Phlebotomist - Accredited Programs, Certification & Salary

A phlebotomy career enables professionals to work with a wide variety of people and to draw blood at hospitals and healthcare sites or even through unique types of jobs. For example, some phlebotomists might go from home to home collecting blood samples from life insurance applicants that are used in underwriting procedures to determine their eligibility and rates.

Phlebotomists primarily collect blood using a procedure known as venipuncture, in which a vein is punctured to collect blood. For this reason, they should not only be comfortable working with blood and needles, but also collecting and transporting samples. However, the procedures to do venipuncture correctly and safely are learned in a phlebotomy program, so that students understand what they need to do to protect themselves. Safety is always essential!

How Long Does it Take to Become a Phlebotomist?

The process of becoming a phlebotomist can take a year or less to complete, depending on the education program and whether a student pursues national certification. A few states also have separate certification requirements employment in that state, and this may make the process longer.

Education programs can take from as little as eight weeks to less than a year to finish depending upon the school type and program in which students enroll. Programs at vocational schools may be quicker whereas those at community colleges could take longer. Completing both the instructional and clinical hours of a program is essential to obtaining a certificate or diploma and then to finding employment.

National certification is generally not required but can be helpful in obtaining employment. This could take several months or more to complete, depending on how prepared a student is for the exam and how motivated they are to seek certification. However, there are generally time limitations as to when a student can have completed a program and still sit for national certification.

Certification is required in just a few states, so it is often possible to be working as a phlebotomist in less than a year, particularly when a student enrolls in one of the quicker-paced programs.

Phlebotomy Program Cost & Career Salary

Phlebotomy programs aren’t very expensive relative to the salary you can earn. Courses range in cost from $700 to $3,000, depending on the school and length of training. Additionally, students who pursue certification will need to pay the $90 to $200 for the test fee. States requiring licensure will also incur a $58 to $200 cost.

The job outlook for the occupation is strong. In fact, career opportunities nationwide are expected to grow much faster than average—23 percent nationally between 2018 and 2028—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This could result in more than 29,500 new jobs becoming available over this time.

The BLS (May 2019) reports that the mean hourly wage for the field was $17.54, equivalent to $36,480 annually. However, California, Washington, D.C., New York, Alaska, and Washington had higher mean wages for phlebotomists—all above $41,000.

It does take special skills to become a phlebotomist. Constant client interaction and fast-paced workplaces require that professionals in the field have:

  • Compassion: Because some people do not like to have their blood drawn, phlebotomists need to be understanding and compassionate about this anxiety and fear.
  • Dexterity: Since phlebotomists are inserting a needle into a vein, they need to be accurate and precise in what they do. Good hand-eye coordination is necessary, but so is the ability to successfully insert a needle into a vein during the first attempt.
  • Attention to detail: Not only do phlebotomists need to be able to draw blood, but they must also draw the correct amounts, do so for the number of tests needed, collect that blood, track it, and enter it into a database. Extreme care must be taken not to mix up or incorrectly label samples.

Many phlebotomists work in laboratory settings, but others work for ambulatory services, providing them more flexibility on the job. Still, they may need to work weekends or evening hours, like in a laboratory.

Keep on reading to discover more about how to become a phlebotomist, including the steps to take toward education and national certification.

Steps to Become a Phlebotomist

Many people want to know how to become a phlebotomist, so here are some general steps to take:

Step 1: Complete high school (four years). To be accepted into phlebotomy programs, students should have a high school diploma or a GED. In fact, most programs can be entered directly upon completing high school. Students who wish to pursue this career should take courses in health, science, and psychology to help prepare them for additional studies.

Step 2: Complete an accredited phlebotomy program (eight weeks to a year). A phlebotomy education typically takes a year or less to complete. Graduates receive a certificate or diploma. These programs, usually available through vocational schools and community colleges, include an education in anatomy, medical terminology, and physiology. Classroom and lab work are important components of instruction, and while the requirements for enrollment can vary, they may include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • A minimum GPA while in high school
  • Immunization records
  • Background check
  • CPR certification

Once accepted into a program, students typically need to pay tuition and fees. These may or may not cover the costs for textbooks and a uniform. Also, students who drop out of a program after enrolling may be assessed a withdrawal fee.

When enrolling, students may wish to look for a program that is approved by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). More than 60 phlebotomy programs nationwide are listed as approved on the NAACLS site as of April 2020, meaning that they have reached certain education standards in phlebotomy and that staff and faculty have attained specific education levels.

Step 3: Pursue professional certification (timelines vary). While certification is not required in all states it does increase employability. California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington do require phlebotomist to hold a certification.

Requirements to be eligible to sit for a certification exam vary based on the testing agency. However, for all agencies, aspiring professionals must:

  • Complete a phlebotomy education course
  • Hold a current CPR certification
  • Have graduated from high school or have obtained a GED
  • Complete the required clinical training either with a required number of on the job training hours or a number of venipunctures

Students should ensure they verify the requirements with each testing agency to ensure they meet the requirements. Once requirements are met, students can apply to take the exam for certification. Top recognized certification agencies include:

  • American Certification Agency for Healthcare Professionals (ACA)
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT/MMCI)
  • The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
  • American Medical Certification Association (AMCA)
  • National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

Fees for these exams and the format of the tests vary. Fees from range from $58 to $200. The phlebotomy exam through the National Center for Competency Testing, as an example, comprises 125 scored questions and 25 unscored pretest items. Students have three hours for testing and they may need to demonstrate practical knowledge of some skills, such as taking blood.

Step 4: Maintain certification (annually). Continuing certification requirements will vary based on the organization that certification was initially obtained through. An annual fee and completion of continuing education are typical requirements. Maintaining certification demonstrates professionals are dedicated to maintaining quality work on an ongoing basis and have met knowledge standards set by a third-party agency

The BLS reports the job prospects are the best for those who receive certification from any of the available reputable certifying organizations. In other words, although certification may take extra work and an ongoing commitment to education, it could result in career benefits.

Featured Phlebotomist Programs

Phlebotomy programs are generally offered on-campus at schools and institutions since students need to gain hands-on skills in blood withdrawal and collection. Below is a look at some of the programs that can be found in the U.S., but keep in mind that these only represent a small sample of programs that are available across the country.

Santa Fe College offers a phlebotomy certificate program that can be completed in two semesters. Students complete 60 hours of classroom instruction the first semester and spend the second semester completing 105 hours of phlebotomy clinical rotations. To be eligible for admission, students must pass a background check and have received the required immunizations. CPR certification, HIPAA training, and bloodborne pathogen education are included in this course.

Iowa Western Community College, in Council Bluffs, offers a phlebotomy program that covers 80 hours of classroom training and 120 hours of clinical experiences. In the sixth week of the program, students are given their clinical placements and, upon completion, should be eligible to sit for national certification through the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Abrams College, in Modesto, California offers the didactic portion of its phlebotomy program over two weeks, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays, and 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This accounts for 48 hours in classroom study, for which students need to pass all exams and requirements at skill stations to move on to the externship experience. The externship is 40 hours and occurs in a clinical laboratory setting or hospital. Upon successful completion, students receive a certificate and should be eligible to seek national certification and state licensure.

Kimmy Gustafson
Kimmy Gustafson Writer

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.