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What MLS Program is the Best for You?

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

You’ve made the decision to become an MLS. Excellent! Now it is time to choose a program. While, it can seem like a daunting decision – with over 230 NAACLS programs to pick between. I don’t want you to worry.

Figuring out what is important to you will help narrow the field. You may even discover some programs you wouldn’t have considered before.

I’ve broken it down into digestible nibbles. Making this decision starts with having all the facts.

Program Types

There are 3 different types of MLS programs. The program you attend will depend on the amount of schooling you have completed.

If you do not have a Bachelor of Science, you should look for a 2+2 or a 3+1 type of program. These programs will culminate in a Bachelor of Science in medical lab science. And you will be eligible to take the ASCP MLS certification exam. Deciding between a 2+2 or a 3+1 is going to be personal preference.

If you have a Bachelor of Science, you should apply to a one-year post-baccalaureate program (4+1). This program type does not confer a degree but will allow you to take the ASCP MLS exam.

The 2 + 2 Program

In a 2 + 2 MLS program, the first two years are pre-requisite coursework. In the second two years, you complete the professional portion. Taking classes such as hematology, urinalysis, clinical chemistry, and clinical microbiology. You will gain practical knowledge during your clinical internship /rotations. In which, you rotate through the different benches in a clinical lab. Working hands-on, side by side real MLSs. This program type awards a Bachelor of Science degree and allows you to take the ASCP MLS exam.

The 3 + 1 Program

This is like a hybrid between a 2+2 and a 4+1. You take 3 years of pre-requisite courses at a university and spend the last year at an MLS program. Some colleges have an affiliation with a nearby MLS program – creating a 3+1 program that cuts a year off your degree. Instead of applying to the MLS program after you graduate (4+1) they allow you to combine your BS with your MLS training. You complete the MLS program in 4 years – 3 years undergrad + 1 year MLS program. You graduate with a Bachelor of Science in medical lab science and are eligible to take the ASCP certification exam.

The 4 + 1 Program

This program type is for those that already have a Bachelor of Science. A 4 + 1 is a post-baccalaureate program combining both academic coursework and hands-on training. These programs do not confer a degree but will make you eligible for the ASCP MLS exam.

MLT to MLS Programs

If you are working as an MLT and looking to further your career you can take an MLT to MLS program. If you want, you can continue working while you complete an online course or find an in-person program.

Online Programs

Online MLS programs can be a good option if you need flexible hours. If you are working full time, trying to get back to school while raising a family or just wish to live close to home, an online program can be a great choice.

Here you can find a list of online programs.


NAACLS (the national accrediting agency for clinical laboratory science) oversees the accreditation of MLS programs. If you are planning on gaining ASCP certification through route 1, you must complete a NAACLS accredited medical laboratory scientist training program. (3)

“The education received from a NAACLS accredited MLS program is acceptable for five (5) years from the date of completion of that program. After five years, the applicant’s eligibility will be based on clinical laboratory experience as stated in the current examination eligibility requirements.”

The Worksheet

Check out this guide to determining the best MLS program for you. It helps identify the aspects of a program that are most important to you. It will point you in the right direction when you start to look for MLS programs.

Download MLS Program Worksheet: HERE

First Steps

Deciding where to go to school can seem like a big decision. But, any school can provide the education you need to become a fantastic MLS.

The program that is right for you may not be the best program for someone else.

“Take location, for instance. If you don’t want to be more than 100 miles from home, then schools on the other side of the globe are out! The same goes for school size, cost, and other basic college criteria. By identifying your needs early on, you can eliminate hundreds of schools and focus on the things that will make your school a perfect fit.”(2)

Focus on finding a program that fits for you. Has the things you find important. Use the answers from the “ MLS Program Worksheet ” to point you in the right direction.

MLS Program worksheet: HERE

Keep Going

Your worksheet is filled out. You have a sense of direction. Now, use that forward motion. Armed with your “ Which MLS Program is Right for You Worksheet ” make a list of the programs fitting your criteria.

You are one step closer.

Your dream is in reach.

Keep that momentum going.


1. “ASCLS_Online_Directory_MLS.Pdf.” n.d. Accessed October 14, 2018.

2. “Colleges and Universities: Choosing the Right Fit.” 2017. Peterson’s (blog). December 19, 2017.

3. “Get Credentialed.” n.d. Accessed October 14, 2018.

4. “NAACLS – National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science – Find a Program.” n.d. Accessed October 25, 2018.

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