Two Concentration Options: Molecular Biotechnology vs. Clinical
KU’s Clinical Laboratory Science program is unique in that students can choose to complete the traditional clinical concentration, the molecular diagnostics concentration, or both. Medical Laboratory Scientist certification, MLS(ASCP), is required by most hospitals to work in a clinical laboratory. There may be opportunities for the MLS to cross-train in molecular biotechnology while working in the clinical lab without holding the Molecular Biotechnology, MB(ASCP), certification. Those with MB(ASCP) certification are highly sought after for molecular-based positions. Both concentrations offer numerous job options in health care as technology advances.
Students in both concentrations take the same courses for the first three semesters of the program. During the final semester, students enroll in courses directly related to either the molecular biotechnology concentration or the clinical concentration. Upon completion of the two-year CLS program, students will have a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science with the concentration(s) completed indicated on the degree. Students completing both concentrations can sit for both certification exams – MB(ASCP) and MLS(ASCP) – and will hold credentials in two categories if successful.
The clinical concentration is designed for students interested in working in a hospital clinical laboratory in areas such as hematology, clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, and immunohematology (blood bank). Certification as an MLS(ASCP) is required for positions in these areas with eligibility for this examination received upon graduation from KU. Graduates holding the MLS(ASCP) certification have many options for work environments such as large and small hospital labs, physician’s office labs, reference labs, and community blood centers. Jobs are available on various shifts and staffing patterns, such as 7 days on/7 days off, four 10-hour days/week, and the traditional five-day/40-hour work week, allowing flexibility to accommodate different lifestyle needs.
The clinical concentration students spend their final semester (16 weeks) at an affiliated hospital laboratory rotating through each laboratory department. During this time, the concepts and skills learned during lectures and student labs are applied in a real-world setting. Students work directly with practicing medical laboratory scientists to gain on-the-job experience prior to entering the job market.
The molecular biotechnology concentration combines diagnostic skills with entry-level research skills. It is a rapidly growing area in the diagnostic laboratory where DNA, RNA, and proteins are extracted, amplified, and analyzed to detect genetic and infectious diseases. Students choosing this option will be trained in the latest techniques of DNA and RNA amplification, blotting techniques, and separation of proteins using electrophoresis. This is a good choice for students interested in forensics, research, and diagnosis of genetic and infectious disease. Work environments include top research facilities, hospital molecular labs, crime labs, and companies that combine diagnostic testing with research to create new testing methodologies.
The molecular biotechnology students begin the final semester with intensive molecular biotechnology lab and lecture classes beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving. This coursework is followed by 14 weeks of practicum that gives students in-depth application of concepts as well as work experience in the molecular biotechnology and molecular genetics field. Eligibility for the MB(ASCP) exam is received upon graduation. Keep in mind that certification as an MB(ASCP) without the MLS(ASCP) certification may limit your career options in a traditional hospital laboratory setting. However, MB(ASCP) graduates are in demand because numerous career options exist in the field of molecular biotechnology and will continue to increase as new molecular-based diagnostic tests are developed.
Students opting to complete both concentrations will take the molecular biotechnology courses first (in the final spring semester) followed by the clinical concentration during the summer and fall semesters. Graduation is delayed until December for those students opting to complete both options as it requires an additional 16 weeks to complete the clinical courses.