According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2006, healthcare comprised the single largest industry in the U.S. economy--providing 14 million jobs. By 2016, health care is expected to gain 3 million new wage and salary jobs, more than any other industry. Most healthcare jobs require less than four years of college education. If you're looking for a fast way into a healthcare career, consider pursuing phlebotomy training.
If you've ever donated blood or had your blood tested, you've gotten a glimpse of what phlebotomists do. Laboratories employ phlebotomists to collect quality blood samples from patients and produce reliable test result in the laboratory--from toxin screenings and cholesterol counts, to tests for viruses and bacterial infections. Phlebotomists may also coordinate continuing education (a requirement for recertification), and arrange presentations on new techniques, research, and safety techniques.
Why Become a Phlebotomist?
Within the rapidly expanding healthcare industry, employment of clinical laboratory technicians (which includes phlebotomists) is expected to increase 14 percent from 2006 to 2016--faster than the average for all occupations. The increase in new jobs is a result of increasing population and the development of new laboratory tests.
In addition to expanding career opportunities, phlebotomy offers an excellent opportunity to earn a livable wage. According to the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), phlebotomy technicians in the United States earned an average annual salary of $24,350. According to the BLS, median annual earnings for medical and clinical laboratory technicians were $34,270 in May of 2007.
Because phlebotomists may need less training than other healthcare and laboratory professionals, they typically earn lower wages. However, the comparatively minimal training may allow you to jump into the healthcare industry more quickly than would be possible with other career paths.
How to Become a Phlebotomist
If phlebotomy sounds like the right career for you, then you may begin in high school, building a solid foundation in math and science. If you've already pursued your high school diploma, you may find phlebotomy training through vocational schools or phlebotomy degree programs. Phlebotomists may typically find entry-level work after completing an associate's degree or certificate program. Some have bachelor's degrees in a life science like biology or biochemistry. Most phlebotomy training may include classroom work in human anatomy and physiology (with an emphasis on the circulatory system). On-the-job phlebotomy training may include supervised practical experience drawing blood, disposing of biohazardous materials, and basic laboratory procedures. Hands-on phlebotomy training is also intensely safety-focused, since workers risk frequent exposure to blood-borne illnesses--including Hepatitis and HIV.
Successful completion of phlebotomy training is a general prerequisite to gaining state certification. Depending on your location, your state typically may require you to become licensed through one of six agencies that give certification exams for phlebotomists--including the National Phlebotomy Association, the ASCP, and the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences. These organizations are also responsible for periodic recertification of phlebotomists.
Moving Up: Advancement in Phlebotomy
If you want to increase your earnings, responsibility, and enhance your hiring potential, you may also gain certification as a donor phlebotomy technician (DPT). These are the phlebotomists who collect blood from voluntary donors, often at remote locations. You may also advance to a supervisory role, with increased earnings as a result. Phlebotomy supervisors earn $35,000 a year on average according to the ASCP.
Above all, you should be able to work well under pressure, be accurate in your work, and be an effective communicator. If you're insightful enough to relay important information to the doctors, nurses, and your fellow lab technicians, you've already got a head start. Check out phlebotomy degree programs today.
American Society for Clinical Pathology, "A Career as a Phlebotomy Technician or Donor Phlebotomy Technician"
Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2000, "You're a What? Phlebotomist"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Health Care"
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2007: Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians"