Unless you work in the medical industry, there is a good chance that you have never even heard of histologic technicians. Despite the relative anonymity of the position, however, the position is one of the fastest-growing, most integral and most interesting careers in medicine.
Histology is the study of cell tissue, and a histologic technician is someone who prepares tissue samples for other medical professionals to view and diagnose.
If you are curious about this career, and would like to learn more, read on to discover what the daily duties of a histologic technician might be, what the work environment is like, what the pay scale and job outlook predictions are, what skills are required in the field and what degree can best prepare you for a successful future in histology.
By answering some questions, you can determine whether becoming a histologic technician could be the right path for you.
Do You Know What Histologic Technicians Do?
This first question is one of the most important because many aspiring histologic professionals aren’t entirely sure what their future careers might consist of. A histologic technician, sometimes known as either histologic technologists or histotechnicians, work directly under laboratory managers or pathologists in laboratories.
The primary duty of a histologic technician is to collect body tissue samples and then prepare the samples for their superiors to diagnose or study.
In order to achieve this objective, histologic technicians need to be comfortable speaking with patients, collecting blood, liquid or tissue samples in a clinical setting, preparing slides and handling microscopes as well as any other medical diagnostic equipment required for the job.
Are You Prepared to Earn a College Degree?
As you might imagine, collecting and preparing tissue samples is a job that requires extensive training and education. There are two primary degree options available for those who aspire to become histologic technicians: an associate degree in histologic technology and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences.
While both cover many of the same subjects, they are different in many ways as well. An associate degree in histologic technology takes an average of roughly two years to complete, and graduates are limited primarily to working in the field of histology.
A four-year bachelor’s in biological sciences, on the other hand, may be more versatile. Graduates with this bachelor’s could go on to work in histology as well as biology or immunology.
Whether you earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, some of the courses you might take to prepare for a career in histologic technology include anatomy, biology, preparing slides, histologic procedures, immunology, molecular biology and physiology.
Do You Meet the Prerequisites to Earn a Degree in Histology Technology?
Regardless of whether you want to earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s, you will need to meet specific prerequisites before you can be accepted into and then enroll in a college degree program.
Every college offering histologic technology degrees will vary slightly when it comes to admission standards, so it is up to each applicant to determine what the requirements are before applying.
However, there are some standards that are common across the board. Many colleges expect their applicants to have already graduated from high school, have an equivalent certification like the GED or be on track to graduate from a high school program within the immediate future.
If the college of your choice is a little more competitive, and you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree, you should expect additional prerequisites. These may include, but are not limited to, references from teachers or employers in your past, original transcripts from your high school, a specific grade point average on a 4.0 scale, proof of suitable scores on either the SAT or the ACT or even a portfolio of your best academic work.
Interviews are also possible at some colleges, although that is infrequent for students who plan to earn online degrees in histologic technology.
Are You Squeamish?
If you are planning to work in histology, being squeamish is out of the question. The job involves collecting live tissue samples from patients, seeing blood, preserving the tissue and a range of similar tasks that may not be right for everyone. If the thought of doing any of these things makes you feel uncomfortable, choosing a different healthcare profession may be the best choice for your future.
Do You Have an Interest or Background in Science?
As long as you have a degree in histology, histologic technology or biological sciences, you can be trained to work as a histologic technician. However, to be truly successful and fulfilled in this line of work, you should also find the subject matter interesting.
That means that the best candidates for becoming a histologic technician are those people who have a strong background or interest in the physical sciences. If you thrived in high school biology, watch scientific documentaries in your spare time or are fascinated by medical reality shows on television, then pursuing this kind of career might be right for you.
Do You Know Where Histologic Technicians Work?
Like most medical and clinic technicians, histologic technicians primarily work in laboratory settings. As many as half of the histologic technicians in the United States will eventually find work in hospitals, where they will be tasked with serving physicians and pathologists who need support preparing slides or collecting samples from patients.
Another quarter will work in medical and diagnostic laboratories that operate apart from a hospital. While the actual work environments are almost identical, those histologic technicians who work in separate laboratories may be more likely to have traditional office work hours. Finally, some histologic technicians work in the private practices of physicians or are employed at research universities or teaching hospitals.
Do You Have Realistic Career and Salary Expectations?
Anyone planning to enter the field of histologic technology should have a realistic expectation of their future pay as well as the state of the job market for the industry. Histologic technicians can expect salaries in line with other medical and clinical technicians, which is approximately $57,580 per year.
However, this salary refers to those technicians with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and at least a few years of experience. It is important to remember that salaries vary substantially from city to city as well as location to location depending on a whole host of factors.
More good news is that the predicted demand for histologic technicians will grow by a whopping 14 percent over the next decade. This allow for more job opportunities, less competitiveness during the hiring process and more potential for you to move upward in your desired place of work.
By answering all of these questions, you should have a better idea about whether or not working as a histologic technician is right for your future. To begin on the path towards this meaningful and interesting career in science with less hassle, consider if a degree from an accredited online college might be better suited to your busy lifestyle.