How Do I Become a Phlebotomist?

If you pay attention to details, work well with your hands and don’t mind the sight of blood, you might wonder how to become a phlebotomist. In modern medicine, blood tests have become a routine diagnostic procedure that doctors use to identify medical conditions or preventively determine and minimize future health risks. Phlebotomists are a type of medical laboratory technician whose primary job responsibility is to draw blood for medical purposes such as diagnostic tests, blood donations and research.

Phlebotomists work in outpatient diagnostic laboratories, hospitals, ambulatory health care services and the clinics or private practices of physicians. Typically, phlebotomists work under the supervision of a medical laboratory technologist or laboratory manager, who usually will have a higher level of education. Phlebotomists must be able to visually locate a vein in which to insert the syringe they will use to draw blood. They must have the physical dexterity and steady hands to accurately place the syringe in the desired vein without causing patients unnecessary harm or discomfort. Some patients, especially children, are afraid of needles, so phlebotomists must be personable and knowledgeable enough to reassure these individuals of their safety. Phlebotomists play an important part in the healthcare system. Their work allows doctors to make informed diagnoses, helps medical researchers acquire research specimens and collects the blood required for life-saving transfusions on behalf of blood donation organizations.

To become a phlebotomist, candidates should earn an associate’s degree from a program that includes coursework in laboratory science, particularly in a clinical setting. Instead of attending college, some aspiring phlebotomists earn a certificate after completing education at a technical or vocational school or in the United States military. Upon completing their education, phlebotomists often need to acquire licensure and certification in the state in which they intend to work. While requirements vary by state, phlebotomists typically must successfully complete an examination to obtain a license and earn continuing education credits throughout their careers to maintain those licenses. In some states, phlebotomists can earn certification either generally, as a medical laboratory technician, or in phlebotomy specifically.

Phlebotomists earn a mean annual salary of $30,910, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While their actual wages vary by employer type, the median hourly wage for phlebotomists is $14.52, the BLS reported. Medical laboratory technicians like phlebotomists have the option to advance their careers by pursuing a higher level of education. By supplementing their associate’s degree with the additional study, usually two years, to earn a bachelor’s degree, they can develop the skills and knowledge to become a medical laboratory technologist. These higher-level healthcare workers earn a median annual salary of $56,130, according to the BLS. If you are not afraid of blood, work well with your hands and can empathize with patients who are frightened or uncomfortable, knowing how to become a phlebotomist could be your first step toward an exciting new career with plenty of potential for advancement in the rapidly expanding healthcare industry.

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