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Should You Become an MLT?

Are considering becoming an MLS but keep coming across the term MLT? Confused on what path to take? I can help.

I remember spending a frustrating amount of time falling through the rabbit hole of google searches. Clicking through endless Wikipedia articles. Finally, I was able to find the answers I had been searching for.

I have compiled everything to help you out. With all the information at hand, you can make the decision – which path is the right one for you? Let’s get started!

What does MLT even stand for?

In America, MLT stands for medical laboratory technician. MLTs are a vital part of clinical labs across the country.

(On a side note: In Canada, MLT refers to medical lab technologist which are the same as an MLS in the states. In fact, MT, medical technologist, is an outdated term for MLS in America.)

What does an MLT do?

An MLT is certified in a similar way to an MLS under the ASCP (American Society for Clinical Pathology). MLTs work side by side with MLS performing similar tasks including…

  • Running instrument and test QC

  • Calibrating instruments

  • Releasing results*

  • Performing automated hematology, chemistry, and coagulation tests

  • Releasing blood from the blood bank

  • Preparing smears and plating specimens

*Varies – in some hospitals MLTs are not allowed to release results – they must first be confirmed by an MLS

The duties of an MLT vary from state to state and from hospital to hospital.

For example: in CA – MLTs are not allowed to perform microscopy work, crossmatch blood, perform urinalysis microscopy, read microbiology plates, or perform specialized testing such as toxicology, virology, and transplant typing.

In other states, where licensing is not required, an MLT may be allowed to perform the same tasks as an MLS.

There are other considerations still. Even if an MLT can perform the same duties as an MLS they might not be allowed to take a managerial role in that lab.

I would say, in most cases, if you can become an MLS – go for it. It will open more doors for you and you won’t have to worry about differing limitations of your practice from hospital to hospital (or state to state).

There are many reasons you might choose to become an MLT over an MLS. If you decide on the MLT path you can start making money sooner. You will gain hands-on experience working in a clinical lab. If money or time is stopping you from attending a four-year university, MLT is a great path to choose.

If you are interested in pursuing an MLT license be sure to check what the scope of practice for an MLT is in your state.

(see slide 16 for an idea of different scopes of practice for MLTs)

Path to become an MLT

The reason an MLT’s scope of practice is more limited is that the certification requirements are shorter than for an MLS. You will need an associate degree or equivalent to become certified as an MLT. Here are the four pathways you may take to become a certified MLT…


PATH 1: Associate degree or at least 60 credit hours from a college or university AND completion of a NAACLS or ABHES accredited MLT program within the last 5 years

PATH 2: Associate degree (or 60 credit hours) AND CLA(ASCP) certification – CLA(ASCP) was discontinued in 1985, this route is only for those who already have the CLA certification from Prior to 1985

PATH 3: Associate degree (or 60 credit hours) AND completion of a 50 week US military medical lab training course within the last 10 years

PATH 4: Associate degree (or 60 credit hours) AND three years of full time clinical lab experience in blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, and urinalysis in the US, Canada or an accredited lab within the last 6 years


Career outlook

The Bureau of labor statistics in 2017 predicted a 14% growth in MLT jobs from 2016 to 2026 – much faster than other occupations are growing.

What path is right for you?

There is no right answer. It is going to depend on where you live – does your state require licensure? What kind of degree do you already possess – Associate, Bachelor’s (or are on your way to procuring)? Do you have the time to commit to an MLS program or do you need a job with a shorter requirement path? Do you see yourself working in management later on down the line?

Just know that whatever path you choose that you are going to do great things. You have so much to look forward to in your career!

Now get out there. Make those dreams come true.

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