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What is a Medical Laboratory Scientist?


Description of Profession

The Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS), also known as a Medical Technologist (MT) is a highly trained individual involved in the research, development, performance and reporting of laboratory tests important in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease in a dynamic health care environment, working as a vital member of the health care team and extending their care and compassion to the patient and health care community through customer service and education.

In a collaborative effort with clinicians and other health care professionals, the MLS conducts, efficiently and precisely, a variety of tests on patient blood, body fluids or tissues, utilizing manual methods, sophisticated instrumentation and computers.  An MLS not only knows how to perform each test, but is able to evaluate and validate each result to assure accuracy and is able to understand the medical significance of different physiological conditions and how they may affect the results of laboratory tests.  They follow strict written protocols and exercise skills in problem solving and troubling shooting for instruments and procedures, utilizing preventative and corrective maintenance and quality control to maintain and confirm accuracy and precision.  The MLS may work as generalists throughout the laboratory or specialize in a certain discipline, such as, clinical chemistry, immunochemistry, hematology, immunohematology (blood banking), microbiology and/or research and development.  Each MLS takes on the personal responsibility of maintaining their professional competence and knowledge through continuing education and technical development.  The skilled MLS also may have a role in the operations of the laboratory through supervision, management, finances, marketing, consultation, customer service, resource management, information management, performance improvement, quality assurance, regulatory compliance and education.

An MLS is a conscientious, principled and ethical individual with a high standard of excellence demonstrating commitment, confidence and sound judgment.  They are responsible, dependable, honest and self-assured, performing each aspect of their profession with dedication and compassion.  Medical Laboratory Scientists must be satisfied with working behind-the-scenes, obtaining ultimate satisfaction through helping and serving others by applying their skills.

The career opportunities of the MLS are almost limitless.  The quality, precision skills, and vast knowledge learned in the clinical preceptorship are applicable, dynamic and adaptable to many career areas and are sought after by employers.  The skills of the MLS can be applied in many career fields, including: doctor's office laboratories, veterinary/zoological clinics, industry (food, cosmetic, chemical, environmental), pharmaceutical research and sales, biomedical/genetic research, environmental health, forensic laboratories, sales and marketing, education and more.

Explore Careers in Medical Laboratory Science

For more information on careers in the clinical laboratory, view "Diagnostic Detectives" using the following link.

What is the Difference between MLS / MT / CLS ?
Medical Laboratory Scientist / Medical Technologist / Clinical Laboratory Scientist

There are different agencies that test and certify laboratory professionals (see Related Links).  Laboratorians could be certified by the ASCP-BOR (Board of Registry) and upon certification were titled “Medical Technologist” with the credentials “MT(ASCP)” written after their name.  Laboratorians who chose to be certified by the National Credentialing Agency (NCA) were titled “Clinical Laboratory Scientist” with the credentials “CLS(NCA)” written after their name.  In October 2009, these two agencies (ASCP-BOR and NCA) united, forming a single certification agency.  The new certification agency is called the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC).

When these two agencies united to form the ASCP-BOC, a new title for certification was created “Medical Laboratory Scientist” with newly certified laboratorians writing “MLS(ASCP)” after their name.  Therefore, if you take the ASCP-BOC certification examination after October 2009, your professional title will be “Medical Laboratory Scientist”.  If you took the certification examination from one of the separate agencies prior to uniting, you will keep the corresponding title “Medical Technologist” or “Clinical Laboratory Scientist.”  An MT or CLS who wishes to utilize the new MLS designation must complete and submit continuing education requirements as outlined in the ASCP-BOC Certification Maintenance Program (for more information, see Related Links).