What is a Clinical Laboratory Scientist?

Clinical laboratory scientists (CLS), also known as medical laboratory scientists (MLS) or medical technologists (MT), work in all areas of the clinical laboratory, including microbiology, chemistry, immunology/serology, hematology, molecular diagnostics and immunohematology (blood banking).

A group of clinical laboratory scientists collaborate.They perform a wide range of testing, from simple pregnancy tests to complex tests for diseases like hepatitis or cancer, using an array of specialized electronic equipment, computers and precision instruments. A CLS will analyze and evaluate laboratory results, perform quality control, troubleshoot equipment and interferences, consult with physicians and medical staff, effectively use supplies to keep within budgets, and report accurate and timely results.

Laboratory testing plays a critical role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Laboratory services may make up 5 percent of a hospital's budget, but make up 70 to 80 percent of the information contained in the electronic medical record. Lab services play a role in 60 to 70 percent of all physicians' critical decisions, such as admittance, discharge and medication.

Employment Opportunities

Opportunities for jobs are excellent. Predictions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor indicate that by 2014, the profession will need 149,000 new CLS employees to fill expected vacancies and new positions. Career prospects include healthcare or research and development laboratories, American Red Cross laboratories, pharmaceutical laboratories or sales, laboratories in physician offices or in veterinary medicine, forensic science, genetics, biotechnology laboratories, state health department laboratories, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and post-graduate research and education, including medical and veterinary school. A CLS often starts working in a clinical laboratory then goes on to become hospital or public health educator or administrator.