Phlebotomy Certification

Certification Description & Options

Phlebotomy is a career on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2013) anticipates a 27% growth in this profession between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average increase projected for all occupations (11%). How does one become a part of this medical subspecialty?

Although some employers may consider individuals with high school diplomas and clinical experience with venipuncture (i.e., drawing blood or introducing fluids into a person’s vein with a hypodermic needle), there are some reasons to consider getting certified prior to seeking a job in this growing field.

First, there are four states which require that their phlebotomists be certified: California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington.

Secondly, nearly all employers prefer phlebotomists who have earned a professional certification from an accredited organization. O*NET, an affiliate of the American Job Center Network, reported than in 2013, 57% of their phlebotomist respondents had post-secondary certificates whereas 33% had only high school diplomas.

In order to become certified, prospective phlebotomists typically complete a program from an accredited phlebotomy certification school that takes around one year. These programs generally have two courses and a clinical component such as an externship as well. Upon completion of a program and supervised clinical experience, the individual may be qualified to take a certification exam. Many of the exams require both written and lab portions in order to demonstrate one’s effectiveness in venipuncture. The specific number of venipunctures and supervised clinical hours vary by certifying agency.

Certification Preparation & Exam

Prior to becoming certified, phlebotomy candidates must typically complete a program through an accredited phlebotomy school. While many of these programs can help an individual prepare for a certification exam, there are a number of other test preparation resources as well.

One certifying body, the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers a reading list to help students get ready for their exams:

  • Becan-McBride, K. & Garza, D. (2010). Success! in Phlebotomy: A Question and Answer Review for Phlebotomy

  • Booth, K. & Mundt, L. (2012). Phlebotomy: A Competency-Based Approach

  • Ernst, D.J. (2005) Applied Phlebotomy

  • Garza, D. & Becan-McBride, K. (2010) Phlebotomy Handbook: Blood Specimen Collection from Basic to Advanced

  • Garza, D. & Becan-McBride, K (2012). Phlebotomy Simplified

  • McCall, R.E. & Tankersley, C.M. (2012). Phlebotomy Essentials

Most of the websites for the various certifying agencies provide additional advice and resources to help an individual get prepared for the exam.

Requirements for certification

While the format of the phlebotomy certification exam will vary by certifying body, here are a couple of typical prerequisites and test features:

  • Prerequisites:

    • High school diploma

    • CPR certification

    • Up-to-date immunizations

    • Successful completion of an program from a phlebotomy certification school

    • Supervised clinical experience (NOTE: The actual number of venipunctures or clinical hours required varies widely between certifying organizations)

    • Letter from program supervisor or phlebotomy school verifying course and clinical work completion

    • Exam fee

    • Recertification (NOTE: The amount of time between certifications varies widely by certifying agency)

  • Exam:

    • Written portion (often offered online)

    • Skills or clinical portion

Here are two examples of specific prerequisites to taking the certification exam:

  • American Certification Agency (ACA)

    • Prerequisites:

      • At least one year of phlebotomy experience including both venipuncture and dermal punctures, or successful completion of an accredited phlebotomy training program

      • Documented proof of at least 100 clinical hours, 100 successful venipunctures and 10 successful dermal punctures (NOTE: Louisiana requires 25 dermal punctures)

  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)

    • Prerequisites:

      • Graduation from an accredited program within the past four years including 120 hours of didactic training

      • At least 1,040 hours as a phlebotomy technician

      • At least 50 documented venipunctures and 10 skin punctures

Here is one example of the composition of the certifying exam:

  • American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP)

    • Exam:

      • Circulatory System (CS) Knowledge of Circulatory System and Blood Composition (5 – 10%)

      • Specimen Collection (SC) Processes Related to the Collection of Blood Specimens (45 – 50%)

      • Specimen Handling, Transport and Processing (SPH), Processes Related to the Handling, Transport and Processing of Laboratory Specimens (15 – 20%)

      • Point-Of-Care Testing (POC) Knowledge and Processes Associated with Rapid Test Methods (3 – 8%)

      • Non-Blood Specimens (NBS) Processes Related to the Collection of Non-Blood Specimens (5 – 10%)

      • Laboratory Operations (LO) Safety, Quality Assurance/Control and Regulatory Applications (15 – 20%)

Value of Certification & Specialization

Candidates who choose to pursue a certification from an agency may be better prepared to enter the profession. Employers in hospitals, blood donation centers, and other clinical centers generally prefer people who are certified.

Furthermore, as stated above, there are four states which require phlebotomists to be certified:

  1. California

    In California, the state with the highest number of phlebotomists, all personnel who draw blood must be certified unless they are physicians, nurses, clinical lab scientists, or other licensed professionals. The California Department of Public Health reports that there are only six agencies that qualify to certify a phlebotomist in California:

  2. Louisiana

  3. According to the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, phlebotomists are categorized as clinical laboratory personnel and therefore are required to be certified.

  4. Nevada

  5. In Nevada, both the individual phlebotomist and the office providing the procedure must be certified. Both applications can be found on the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) website.

  6. Washington

  7. The Washington State Department of Health reports that with an invasive procedure such as phlebotomy, individuals must have a medical assistant certification.

Licensing Boards

According to the Center for Phlebotomy Education, Inc., there are a few main certifying agencies for prospective phlebotomy technicians:

These organizations are highlighted for the following criteria:

  • Nationally recognized

  • Good standing with the Better Business Bureau

  • Known to engage in ethical business practices

  • Require all applicants to take an examination

As with any profession, it is crucial to check the requirements of certifying and employing organizations as these criteria can vary by region, agency, and other factors.

Barry Franklin
Barry Franklin Editor

Barry is the Editor-in-Chief of MedicalTechnologySchools.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Previously, Barry served as a VP at a Silicon Valley software company. In addition to running editorial operations at Sechel, Barry also serves on the Board of Trustees at a local K-8 school, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, where he also met his wife.