What is a Medical Laboratory Scientist?
Learn about the role of medical laboratory scientists as essential members of the healthcare team.
Do you like solving puzzles and problems? Do you excel in handling multiple tasks? Do you like a fast-paced and challenging environment?
If you're looking for a science-based degree that prepares you for advanced studies and a career path that develops skills and experience useful in a variety of employment settings, then clinical laboratory science may be a good choice for you!
Clinical laboratory science (also known as medical technology or medical laboratory science) is a biology/chemistry-based degree that prepares students for exciting, challenging and dynamic careers.
Many critical medical decisions that are life-changing are based on laboratory results generated by medical laboratory professionals. They are healthcare detectives working behind the scenes. Using state-of-the-art instrumentation and scientific methods, they provide laboratory results to clinicians and patients every day.
To provide high-quality, reliable analyses, laboratory professionals must have extensive knowledge of normal and abnormal physiology, correlation of laboratory data to specific diseases, and extensive knowledge of instrumentation and test principles and methodologies.
- hospital laboratories and clinics
- forensic laboratories
- veterinary clinics
- medical, biotechnology and industrial research laboratories
High School and College Course Work
High school preparation should include as much math and science as possible – minimally biology, chemistry and physics and math through calculus. Students who completed high school without the necessary math and science courses may need to take preparatory courses before enrolling in the standard college-level biology, math and chemistry classes. Most community colleges offer these preparatory courses.
To become a medical laboratory scientist, students must enroll in an accredited program. The KU School of Health Professions, located on the KU Medical Center campus, offers a 2+2 accredited program culminating in a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science.
You may take the prerequisite coursework at any accredited post-secondary educational institution. At KU, these classes are offered through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on the Lawrence campus and consist of traditional academic coursework such as a biology, biological sciences, chemistry and math.
For students already enrolled at KU, course CLS 210 is offered fall and spring semesters on the Lawrence campus. It provides an overview of the profession and all of its sub-specialties and is a good way to learn about a career in laboratory science.
The KU Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences is happy to help answer any questions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 913-588-5220 (711 TTY) to schedule an informational visit or personal tour of the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kansas.
We strongly recommended students seek advising from the department as soon as possible in their college career to get assistance in selecting appropriate courses and to minimize additional expenses and/or scheduling conflicts.
Another step in learning more about what it takes to become a medical laboratory scientist (MLS) is to talk with someone who is a clinical laboratory scientist or medical technologist. If possible, “shadow” an MLS for a few days in a local hospital medical lab, area of research or industrial or forensic lab.
Entering KU's CLS Program
Students who complete their prerequisites by the end of the second academic year may apply for admission to the KU clinical laboratory science program (see How to Apply).
The last two years (beginning in August each year) of clinical coursework and practicum are taken in the metropolitan Kansas City area primarily at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
During the senior year, students may choose to pursue the traditional clinical concentration or enter the molecular biotechnology concentration. These concentrations will differ in the coursework and practicum taken during the last semester of the senior year (see curriculum for details).
Most of the students from the KU program receive employment offers by graduation or shortly thereafter. Prospective employers may recruit actively on campus or send notifications of employment opportunities to the department to be distributed to students.
After graduation, students are eligible to take the national certification examination. Certification is often a requirement for continued employment (as well as advancement and optimum salary). Some states also have a separate licensure process.
The American Society of Clinical Pathologists administers certification examinations for both the traditional medical laboratory scientist and the molecular biotechnologist credentials.
The majority of graduates sit for the national certification examination that grants the credentials of medical laboratory scientists. Areas of specialty include clinical chemistry, hematology, transfusion services, clinical immunology, clinical microbiology and the emerging field of molecular diagnostics.
Learn more about career preparation, educational requirements, scholarships, salaries and job opportunities at LaboratoryScienceCareers.com.
Earning potential and competitive salaries for bachelor’s-level degree: (U.S. Department of Labor)
The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science asked laboratory professionals, "What do you love about your career?" Here is what they had to say.