Average Salary:

$54,050 according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (medical and clinical laboratory technologist)

Training in Alabama:

Gadsden State Community College Helath Division (AD in Clinical Laboratory Technology)

Wallace State Community College Health Division (AD in Clinical Laboratory Technology)

Tuskegee University Department of Allied Health (BS in Clinical Laboratory Sciences)

Athens State University College of Arts & Sciences (BS in Health Science)

Auburn University Montgomery (BS in Clinical Laboratory Sciences/Medical Technology, BS in Clinical Laboratory Sciences/Cytotechnology)

UAB School of Health Professions (Graduate Certificate in Biotechnology, MS in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, BS in Cytotechnology, BS in Medical Technology)

Jefferson State Community College (AD in Clinical Laboratory Technology)

Calhoun Community College (AD in Biotechnology)

“Fall in love with biology, chemistry, math and computer classes early. I use my degree every day. Biology–specimens/cell division; chemistry-mixing and usage of reagents in our protocols; math–measuring DNA; computers–capturing and karyotyping chromosomes.”
Career Interview:
Briefly describe your career as a lab technician.
My career as a cytogenetic technologist began with cutting chromosomes! After earning my bachelor’s degree from UAB, I accepted a position in the prenatal lab as a technician. I became a certified technologist two years later. I spent 14 years culturing, harvesting and analyzing amniotic fluid and solid tissue chromosomes. I then moved over to the cytogenetic lab to provide more experience for the blood section. At that time there was only one certified technologist among many new technicians. My duties as lead blood tech these past seven years include culturing, harvest and analysis of blood specimens, training new technicians and karyotype review for my laboratory director. This past spring, I was given the opportunity to train in our array genomics lab. I now extract DNA, label, hybridize and scan arrays.

What type of environment do you work in.
I work in a clinical laboratory setting in the department of genetics at UAB. There are four parts to our cytogenetics laboratory: prenatal (amniotic fluid, cvs, solid tissue), cytogenetic (blood and bone marrow), FISH and array CGH.

Describe a typical workday.
Busy! My first priority is to the array lab. I usually extract DNA two to three times per week. We are running two arrays (8 patients) per week right now, but can run four in a week if specimen load requires it. The arrays involve digesting, labeling, hybridization and scanning, as well as printing the array reports on each patient for the director. You can also find me in the blood lab behind my microscope checking karyotypes, or dropping slides, setting up and harvesting if needed.

What type of education and experience is required for a career as a lab technician.
A Bachelor of Science degree is preferred. Our field is unusual and specialized, so it is hard to find experienced techs. Our supervisor or lead technologists train all new technicians in our lab. After two years, the technician has enough on-the-job experience to test for national certification, with the potential of becoming a technologist.

What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor of Science degree from UAB. I majored in biology and minored in chemistry. I am also a certified technologist in cytogenetics-CLSp(CG).

Why did you choose this career?
I worked two part time jobs while working on my undergraduate degree, so I was ready for one full time job (with benefits) upon completing my degree work. With a biology degree, I knew I wanted to be in the scientific community and the biggest one around was in my backyard-UAB. I had a few genetic courses in college, and this lab position sounded interesting.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
I love my job because I have been trained and shaped by incredible leaders in the field of genetics who have given me opportunities to grow as a technologist and as a person. Genetics is constantly evolving, and so must the technologist. Learning and applying the new array techniques has become my favorite part of the job, but harvesting (amnios or bloods) will always have a special place in my tech heart.
Least favorite part of the job–eye strain…20 years of scope work adds up!

Do you have any suggestions or words of wisdom for high school students interested in a career in your field?
Fall in love with biology, chemistry, math and computer classes early. I use my degree every day. Biology–specimens/cell division; chemistry–mixing and usage of reagents in our protocols; math–measuring DNA; computers–capturing and karyotyping chromosomes.

Are there any other career opportunities in your field you think students should be aware of?
Career opportunities in the field of genetics are endless. From doctors (M.D. or Ph.D.), department and laboratory directors, teachers, lab technologists, technicians to new careers that future discoveries in genetics will create.
Leesa Davis
Cytogenetic Technologist