Phlebotomists play an important role in the overall healthcare system, and jobs are found in diverse settings such as hospitals, clinics, blood banks and physicians' offices. Phlebotomists collect and process blood and other samples that are a vital part of medical diagnoses. The diagnosis, detection and eventually the treatment of a number of diseases and medical conditions can depend on the information gained from these specimens.
Phlebotomy technicians have direct contact with patients and can benefit from customer service skills. The National Healthcareer Association notes that these professionals may need to explain the venipuncture process, answer questions and put fearful patients at their ease. They need the clinical and practical knowledge skills to carefully prepare samples of blood or other substances such as urine, following infection control and safety precautions. According to the National Center for Competency Testing, these professionals rely on familiarity with anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and guidelines spanning topics such as quality assurance, biohazards and risk factors.
How to Become a Phlebotomist
Phlebotomy training programs vary from state to state and even from school to school: courses may run from as little as 10 months to more than a year and result in a certificate or diploma. Some aspiring students pursue associate degree programs for medical laboratory technicians, which could take two years or more of full-time study to complete and may cover subjects such as hematology and immunology. Colleges also offer bachelor's degree programs with related majors such as clinical or medical laboratory sciences.
Some states could require certification or licensing in addition to phlebotomy training. While education does not offer a guarantee of employment, the following steps may help individuals enter the field of phlebotomy.
- Earn a high school diploma or its equivalent prior to seeking phlebotomy training, according to the American Medical Technologists organization. (americanmedtech.org)
- Conduct research on applicable state requirements for training and certification of phlebotomists.
- Complete phlebotomy training that meets state requirements. States may publish a list of approved educational programs.
- Schools may offer an externship to gain experience, and programs of this sort may require a CPR credential.
- Acquire professional certification by passing an examination given by a state approved certification body. Some credentials require that applicants have completed a specific number of phlebotomy procedures before taking the exam.
- Apply for entry-level phlebotomy jobs that meet career goals.
Various organizations feature certifications for phlebotomists, for example:
- American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians: Requires applicants to have worked in the field and to have completed a minimum of 100 venipunctures (blood draws).
- American Society for Clinical Pathology -- Board of Certification: Offers a wide range of medical technician certifications including an international phlebotomy technician credential.
- National Healthcareer Association: Test for phlebotomist certification includes basic procedures as well as testing for substances such as blood glucose.
Post-education requirements vary from state to state, but phlebotomy technicians may need to pursue approved continuing education studies in order to keep their certifications current. Continuing education provides one path to acquiring updated safety information and broader subject matter expertise.
Job Growth and Average Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes phlebotomy technicians in the overall category of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. Medical laboratory technicians like phlebotomists are expected to experience employment growth of up to 15 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, which is about average for all U.S. occupations. This forecast is based on a projected rise in medical treatment for the increasing population of elderly Americans. (bls.gov/ooh)
The phlebotomist salary scale depends on location, qualifications and other factors. Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a median annual wage of $37,240 nationally in May 2012. Average wages differ according to the employer -- U.S. medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians in medical and diagnostic laboratories saw a 2012 mean annual wage of $37,670, compared to $40,050 for those working in general hospitals. (bls.gov/oes)
List of Related Careers
Phlebotomists may be interested in other related career paths, which could require additional education or experience:
- Immunohematology Technologists: Collect blood, determine its type and prepare for transfusions. The BLS notes that medical technologists like this typically complete a bachelor's degree program.
- Medical Assistants: Perform various administrative and clinical duties under the direction of a physician. May include drawing blood and administering medications, taking and recording vital signs, and preparing patients for examination.
- Veterinary Technicians: Perform medical tests as supervised and help veterinarians treat ill or injured animals.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following websites offer more information:
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012