Experience w/ Medical Lab Sciences major in college?

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Post Reply
Topic Author
bryansmile
Posts: 291
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:14 am

Experience w/ Medical Lab Sciences major in college?

Post by bryansmile »

Knowing no one working in this field, I'm just curious if it's a good major for someone interested in biology for undergrad study and has no plans for grad school.
Any personality traits are particularly important to be successful in this field? Thank you.
DoTheMath
Posts: 439
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:11 pm
Location: The Plains

Re: Experience w/ Medical Lab Sciences major in college?

Post by DoTheMath »

bryansmile wrote: Mon Jun 01, 2020 11:57 am Knowing no one working in this field, I'm just curious if it's a good major for someone interested in biology for undergrad study and has no plans for grad school.
Any personality traits are particularly important to be successful in this field? Thank you.
I am assuming this is a major meant for people interested in working the lab of a hospital (for example). My mother was a Med Tech for various hospitals and clinics over the years. She retired 10+ years ago and what I know is only second or third hand, but my impression was that as a career field it has gone downhill quite a bit over the years. Towards the end it seemed the pay wasn't great, the hours included lots of nights/weekends/holidays, and hospitals seemed to view the lab staff as a cost to be minimized (ever more automation and outsourcing, for example). And even doctors now grumble about the general direction of medicine.

In any case, my recommendation to the person would be to spend time shadowing and doing informational interviews with people in the field. It may or may not be what you imagine it to be.
“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains...” -- John Muir
onmyway33
Posts: 50
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2014 7:40 am

Re: Experience w/ Medical Lab Sciences major in college?

Post by onmyway33 »

I received my undergraduate degree in Medical Lab Sciences (aka Clinical Laboratory Sciences) and found the coursework to be academically stimulating, quite rigorous, and certainly rooted in biology/pathology. Some of the core courses were in medical microbiology, blood banking, clinical chemistry, pharmacology, hematology, medical laboratory equipment, etc. I feel that it provides an excellent foundation in human function and pathology for many health care related fields, or could be an entryway into biotech related fields (which was my career path). I believe the job market to be stable, as hospitals will always have a need for on-site rapid lab analysis, though much of the lab work is being centralized and automated by large private corporations. Starting pay is reasonable and comparable to entry level nurses, though the pay can stagnate if one does not move into management or industry or otherwise specialize.

I would recommend googling ASCLS (American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science) for additional information on the field and the career prospects.

Some essential traits for this field, per ASCLS are:
sound intellect; good motor skills: eye-hand coordination and dexterity; effective communication skills; visual acuity to perform macroscopic and microscopic analyses or to read procedures, graphs, etc.; professional skills such as the ability to work independently, to manage time efficiently, to comprehend, analyze, and synthesize various materials...

I agree with the importance to perform shadowing experiences. It was during my internship that I realized that doing this "bench wet work" could become extremely monotonous over time, that I needed more excitement/variability during my day, and I was more drawn to project based work. In some instances, med tech work is the hospital version of the "factory assembly line", and can lead to the same type of burnout.
"When the market's going up, we think it's going to go up forever. When the market goes down, we think it's going to go down forever. Neither of those things actually happen" - John C. Bogle
Beehave
Posts: 860
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:46 pm

Re: Experience w/ Medical Lab Sciences major in college?

Post by Beehave »

DW is a retired lab tech. She started in research, but project funding was always a problem and she ended up in a commercial lab. Automation keeps expanding, there is a tendency to hire recent immigrants for the lowest possible wages, and working conditions are repetitive and production oriented such that the lab tech is no more than a commodity to the company.

That's her experience, she was very happy to retire and has never thought about going back to it. My suggestion would be to look into teaching instead. Find a state/district still offering a pension. I suspect that running a bio lab in a school system will provide some level of job security because of the hand-on lab work aspect.

There may be new and upcoming aspects of lab work I'm not at all familiar with, or opportunities in research. But I suspect any interesting and lucrative research opportunities will be restricted without an advanced degree.

My thoughts only based on observing my spouse's career. Best wishes.
musicmom
Posts: 165
Joined: Sat Apr 11, 2015 4:48 pm

Re: Experience w/ Medical Lab Sciences major in college?

Post by musicmom »

It makes me sad to confirm some posts above indicating a recent slide in the field.

I retired last year after 40 years as a Medical Laboratory Scientist in a large hospital system clinical lab.
My BS degree was then called Medical Technology and consisted of 3 years of chemistry, biology, anatomy, hematology, microbiology, blood bank, followed by a 12 month hospital internship to complete the program. Then a certifying national exam covering all the generalist fields.

Most MLS specialized in one section then. Now, it is common for large hospital labs and private labs to prefer generalists that theoretically are competent to complete testing in any section. I believe this is not best for patient care to expect this to be possible. But breadth seems to be valued over depth.

I specialized in microbilogy, earned a nationally recogized specialist certification after years of hands on work and another exam specifically covering only micro.
I lost competency in other sections after a few years but became a well regarded leader in the micro lab with depth of knowledge no generalist could possess.
I was never bored one minute.
I taught students, supervised the section, interfaced with physicians and pharmacists, served on committees.

I dont see that new MLS will be afforded the oppotunities I had for a diverse and challenging career. Automation certainly is impacting the need for specialists. The pressure to continually press for more w less and faster rather than better is intense.

Pay in northeast states in large labs is good, not great.
I retired earning 110K. Not bad with "only" a BS.
Benefits were terrific, including a pretty fine pension and retiree health coverage (since discontinued)
I wonder who will be performing my lab tests as I age.
Wish I was more optimistic.
bovineplane
Posts: 149
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:24 am

Re: Experience w/ Medical Lab Sciences major in college?

Post by bovineplane »

Was a med technologist for a time. Specialized in donor center operations. Undergraduate degree and national certified. It was a good gig. Pay wasn't the best but I enjoyed the work. You can make a career out of it but pay will top out and is very regional. As it isn't physically demanding many techs work well into 60s or even 70s which limits jobs/upward mobility. Eventually I moved on to other interests.
Post Reply