Clinical or medical? Technologist or scientist?

April 24, 2023

Writing this year’s Salary Survey allowed me to dive a little deeper into the world of the medical laboratory professional. The information gathered from the survey (article on page 22) is based on 436 respondents. This year’s composite medical lab professional is female, between 56–65 years old, and holds a salaried, management position in a hospital lab. She has been in the lab profession for more than 30 years and has worked for her current employer over 30 years.

While analyzing the data from the Salary Survey on the certifications respondents hold and the organizations the certifications are from, I became very interested in what looked like very similar certifications with slight naming differences. I wanted to have a better understanding of the differences and started doing some research. I already had an understanding of the difference between a medical laboratory scientist and a medical laboratory technician, and I had some understanding of the differences between a technologist and a technician. But I wasn’t actually sure what the differences might be between certifications such as medical laboratory scientist, clinical laboratory scientist, medical laboratory technician, medical technologist, and clinical laboratory technologist — which were identified certifications in the Salary Survey.

The MLO Salary Survey is mostly the same questions each year; this is to allow comparisons in the data/feedback from one year to the next. In taking the closer look at the certification section, I noticed a couple things that will probably need to be changed for next year. For one, we ask if anyone’s certification is from National Certification Agency for Medical Laboratory Personnel (NCA). Although 49 respondents said “yes,” I discovered this agency was unified with the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Board of Registry (BOR) in 2009. Maybe we shouldn’t ask if a certification is from NCA anymore. NCA had used the designations Clinical Laboratory Scientist and Clinical Laboratory Technician. But under the single certification agency (ASCP BOR), the professional designations became Medical Laboratory Scientist and Medical Laboratory Technician.

I came across an interesting white paper on the ASCP website: “Promoting the medical laboratory science profession through standardized titles.”1 The problem statement of that paper identified lack of industrywide standardization in the title of certified baccalaureate-educated laboratory personnel as confusing and undermining both professional identity of practitioners as well as public understanding of the profession. In addition, another certifying body, the American Medical Technologists (AMT), has transitioned its Medical Technologist designation to Medical Laboratory Scientist this year. Its certifications include Medical Laboratory Scientist, Medical Laboratory Technician, and Medical Laboratory Assistant.

All of this made me think we should be more aware at MLO in using these updated, standardized terms.

I welcome your comments and questions — please send them to me at [email protected].


1. Accessed April 4, 2023.