Medical laboratory technologists (NOC 3211)

About this job

Medical laboratory technologists conduct medical laboratory tests, experiments and analyses to assist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Medical laboratory technologists who are also supervisors are included in this group.

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Medical laboratory technologist


People in this occupation:

  • must be detail oriented and able to follow strict procedures
  • must be able to work both independently and as part of a team
  • should have good interpersonal and communication skills

Medical laboratory technologists work in many settings including:

  • medical laboratories in hospitals, blood banks, community and private clinics, research facilities and post-secondary educational institutions
Common job titles
  • technologist, autopsy
  • technologist, biochemistry
  • technologist, blood bank
  • technologist, hematology
  • technologist, histology / histopathology
  • technologist, immunology
  • technologist, autopsy
  • technologist, biochemistry
  • technologist, blood bank
  • technologist, charge
  • technologist, clinical / medical laboratory
  • technologist, clinical immunology

Duties

Medical laboratory technologists may specialize in particular areas, such as clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, hematology, histotechnology, transfusion science, diagnostic cytology and clinical genetics. Workers perform varying duties described below.

Special duties

Medical laboratory technologists:

  • Set up, operate and maintain laboratory equipment
  • do chemical analyses of blood, urine, cerebro-spinal fluid or other body fluids; study blood cells and other tissues to determine their relation to various physiological and pathological conditions
  • prepare tissue sections to demonstrate special cellular tissue elements or other characteristics for microscopic examination
  • may establish procedures for the analysis of specimens and for medical laboratory experiments
  • do blood group, type and compatibility tests for transfusion purposes
  • Conduct quality control assessment of testing techniques
  • may supervise and train other medical laboratory technical staff, students and helpers
  • may perform the duties of a pathologist's assistant in some hospitals

Pathologists' assistants:

  • prepare for autopsies by getting patients' medical records and arranging for radiographic examinations
  • help with or do autopsies and surgical specimen examinations under a pathologist's supervision
  • dissect, examine, weigh and photograph organs and specimens, and collect tissue specimens for chemical analysis and record findings
  • may prepare bodies for release to funeral homes following completion of autopsies
  • may train junior resident pathologists and train and supervise morgue attendants

Work environment

Most medical technologists and pathologists' assistants typically work 35–40 hours per week. Working hours vary depending on the type of laboratory. Those working in diagnostic clinical laboratories or hospitals may work rotating shifts of days, evenings and nights, including weekends and holidays. Medical technologists and pathologists' assistants in research laboratories usually work regular week day hours.

Work takes place in bright, well-ventilated laboratories. During their work day, workers may perform a variety of tests or they may repeat the same tests throughout the day. They use solutions and reagents for their work, which may have unpleasant odours. These workers may come in contact with infectious patients, samples or hazardous chemicals, so safety precautions are taken to avoid risks.

Insights from industry

Job openings will come from job creation and the need to replace retiring workers, with job growth outpacing openings from retirements.

Industry sources report a current shortage of medical laboratory technologists in B.C., which is expected to continue in the coming years.

The growing demand for health-care services will increase job opportunities for medical laboratory technologists and pathologists' assistants. In particular, hospitals and medical laboratories that provide contracted diagnostic services are expected to experience growth that will create new job opportunities.

Industry sources also report that there will be an increased demand for general medical laboratory technologists throughout Canada, and that workers in rural and remote communities may be particularly needed.  An increased demand for clinical genetics technologists is expected as a result of the growth of molecular testing. A decrease in demand for diagnostic cytology technologists is also expected as a result of automation.

The introduction of simplified tests for routine diagnoses allow doctors and, in some cases, patients to carry out some tests themselves, which has reduced the number of medical technologist and pathologists assistants. However, the development of new diagnostic tests now requested by physicians has balanced this effect by increasing job opportunities.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Graduates may work in a number of different settings, such as private laboratories, community health clinics, public health facilities, university research labs, biotechnology companies, and specialty labs.

With education and experience, workers may progress to supervisory or senior management positions or they may choose to teach or work in private industry. Advanced certification (ART) is available from the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science for technologists who want to go after management opportunities.

Additional resources