Careers With a Master’s Degree in Medical Laboratory Science

Friday, July 19, 2019

Are you searching for a challenging career direction? Perhaps it’s time to get back in the lab and do some thinking that can change your life and the lives of others.

Medical laboratory scientists play a vital role in patient care while making use of leading-edge technology. They don’t work under a microscope — they work with them, operating mostly in the background as they use their innate curiosity to help clinicians diagnose, treat and monitor diseases.

Interested? Let’s take a closer look.

What is the field of medical laboratory science?

Diagnostic testing is the backbone of patient care. In fact, 70 percent of all physician decisions are based on laboratory test results provided by medical laboratory scientists, who are also known as medical technologists and clinical laboratory scientists. For example, you may work with a hematologist — a physician who treats blood disorders — to analyze red and white blood cells to determine if they’re normal or indicate a disease.

“This is for the person who really likes to work with their hands, ask questions and problem-solve,” says Maribeth Flaws, PhD, director of the master’s in Medical Laboratory Science program at Rush University.

Why obtain a master’s degree in medical laboratory science

A master’s degree helps medical laboratory scientists become leaders in a field that is highly valued and continues to grow as the instruments and technologies used to detect disease and monitor treatment become more sophisticated. Due to constantly evolving diagnostic technology, more and more medical laboratory scientists are spending less time in the lab and more time interacting with clinicians to help them figure out which tests to order and what the results mean for their patients.

With a medical laboratory science degree, you’ll have the opportunity to establish a career in this dynamic health care field. You’ll receive education and training beyond a bachelor’s degree that will include coursework to help position you as a future clinical laboratory leader. You will also be well-positioned to move into management roles faster.

In addition, obtaining a medical laboratory science degree can provide an excellent knowledge base that can be a stepping stone to degrees in other health care fields — from nursing and research to physicians and physician assistants.

Why choose a career in medical laboratory science?

  • Strong job demand: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13 percent job growth for medical laboratory professionals from 2016 to 2026, which is considerably faster than other careers. There is a critical shortage in the field due to the rising importance of technology in making health care decisions. Graduates often receive multiple job offers and are usually able to be picky about where in the country they want to work, their work setting and which shifts they take.
  • Rising salaries: The average salary for a medical laboratory scientist is $60,605, according to PayScale, but pay tends to be higher for medical laboratory scientists with a master’s degree. Salaries depend on different factors, such as where in the country you work and which shifts you take. In California, where the cost of living is higher, you may start off earning $100,000. The highest 10 percent of earners make more than $80,000.
  • A variety of career options: Medical laboratory scientists don’t just work in hospitals or diagnostic laboratories. You may find yourself teaching, working in a research facility, or in a veterinary clinic or zoo. There is a demand for medical laboratory scientists in fertility clinics and pharmaceutical companies. Or you may find your niche in law enforcement working in a forensic crime lab.

Potential career areas with a medical laboratory science degree

There is certainly no lack of variety in the field. With a medical laboratory science degree, you’ll have the ability to work in different areas of medicine on any given day.

  • Clinical chemistry: Search for markers of diseases, such as diabetes, cardiac disease and cancer.
  • Clinical microbiology: Find out what is causing a patient’s infection. Do they have a virus, bacteria, a parasite, yeast or mold? If it is a bacteria, you’ll figure out what species it is to help clinicians identify which medications will be most effective.
  • Hematology: Analyze blood to help diagnose and treat diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma.
  • Immunohematology: Identify the antigens and antibodies related to red blood cells in patient and donor blood to determine a compatible match for a patient who needs a blood transfusion.
  • Toxicology: Monitor medication levels in patients to ensure they have an appropriate amount in their system.

“You can be a generalist and do everything or you can be a specialist and just do what you like,” Flaws says. “There’s a lot of flexibility working in the clinical laboratory.”

Follow this link to learn about Rush’s Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Science program.