There are different job titles in a lab setting. The main role of lab professionals is to analyze patient specimens and provide the doctors with diagnostic information.
A Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) and a Medical Technologist (MT) are such professionals. Some people think the careers are similar with the same job description.
However, while employees in these positions can have similar roles and responsibilities, the education requirements and management responsibilities are different.
Here are some differences between the two roles.
What is a Medical Technologist?
A medical technologist (MT) is a laboratory professional who performs high complexity procedures in a laboratory setting. They are trained to handle laboratory tasks as well as leadership roles.
Certification is one of the requirements to practice as an MT. Aspiring MTs can choose either a Medical Technologist Generalist Certification or obtain a Medical Technologist Individual Discipline Certification if they wish to be specialists in a particular discipline.
Who is a Medical Laboratory Technician?
Unlike a medical technologist, a medical laboratory technician (MLT) performs less complex and routine procedures. They assist MTs and physicians in diagnosing, monitoring, and treating ailments in patients.
They require a two-year associate degree and a Medical Laboratory Technician (Generalist) certification to practice.
How is an MT Different From an MLT?
To qualify for an MLT role, you must be a high school graduate and meet one of these MLT qualifications;
- Obtain an associate degree in medical laboratory technology or laboratory science from an accredited institution and pass the MLT Generalist examination.
- Complete a US military course in medical laboratory procedures, earn the laboratory technician occupation specialty, and pass the MLT Generalist Exam
MT job qualifications include;
- A bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in chemical, biological, medical technology, or clinical laboratory science and pass the MT discipline examination.
- Complete a laboratory training program approved by accrediting agencies approved by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Education and Training
MLT programs are typically two years under an associate degree or a diploma. To obtain an MLT diploma, one needs at least a high school education in chemistry, biology, and math.
To become an MT, on the other hand, you must have a four years bachelor’s degree. The course covers medical technology in-depth and is thus more preferred.
However, some programs accept students who have completed their two years of MLT training and are interested in completing the four-year degree to become MTs.
MLT students take courses in hematology, microbiology, chemistry, diagnostic testing, and clinical chemistry.
The MT degree program covers all the areas as the associate degree but may have additional courses in anatomy, immunology, and biochemistry. Students get in-person laboratory experience as part of the program in their senior year.
Experience is also required when applying for most entry-level MT jobs. Students complete this experience in a lab setting under the supervision of a medical lab scientist (MLS).
Aspiring MLTs and MTs must complete their education and meet other requirements to obtain certification from bodies such as the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Medical Technologists, and the AAB Board of Registry (ABOR).
Individuals are certified as general MLTs or in an area of specialty after passing MLT exams in these disciplines;
The exam also includes patient confidentiality, general operations, information security, regulatory compliance, and administration in a “Basic Knowledge” component.
In addition to the disciplines in MLT certification above, MT has three more. That is andrology, embryology, and molecular diagnostics.
MT certifications are of different types depending on the disciplines.
- MT Generalist Certification: You can apply for certification as an MT generalist for the five disciplines.
- MT Individual Certification: Certification as an MT in either one or more of the eight disciplines.
Like MLTs, aspiring MTs must also pass the “Basic Knowledge” component to qualify for certification.
The main difference between MLT and MLT careers and certifications is the supervisory capabilities and responsibility in the lab. MLTs perform simple and moderately complex laboratory procedures.
MLTs’ responsibilities include;
- Analyzing samples such as blood, urine, and tissue samples
- Determining blood type and compatibility for transfusion
- Calibrating and sterilizing laboratory equipment
- Entering patient information in their medical history database
- Sorting and labeling specimen
- Preparing tissues and specimens for microscopic examination by pathologists
On the other hand, MTs have more responsibilities. They perform tests, including complex procedures, and sometimes supervise MLTs.
MTs may perform tasks such as;
- Examining specimens with a microscope
- Performing differentials and cross matches
- Reviewing abnormal specimens
- Analyzing and verifying lab results
- Overseeing MLTs and training newly-hired lab employees
MT Vs. MLT: You Need Both
Although their roles might seem similar and overlapping, they are two different posts. MTs have more training and responsibilities than MLTs. They can also train and supervise MLTs. On the other hand, MLTs can perform less complex laboratory tasks. You need both.
Looking to fill an MT or MLT position?
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