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Medical Laboratory Technician

Kaihangarau Taiwhanga Rongoā

Alternative titles for this job

Medical laboratory technicians take medical samples and run tests under the supervision of scientists and pathologists.

Pay

Trainee medical laboratory technicians usually earn

$37K-$46K per year

Qualified medical laboratory technicians usually earn

$43K-$55K per year

Source: DHB's and PSA Allied, Public Health and Technical MECA, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a medical laboratory technician are good due to a shortage of trainees to keep up with demand.

Pay

Pay for medical laboratory technicians varies depending on their experience and the shifts they work.

  • Trainee medical laboratory technicians usually earn between $37,000 and $46,000 a year.
  • Qualified medical laboratory technicians earn between $43,000 and $55,000.

Source: District Health Boards and PSA Allied, Public Health and Technical 'Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, to October 2017', 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Medical laboratory technicians may do some or all of the following:

  • reassure and care for patients they are taking samples from
  • take blood or samples such as fingernail scrapings or throat swabs, and label samples
  • prepare slides of blood and other body fluids, and perform tests on these samples
  • match blood for transfusions
  • examine cultures for bacteria that can cause disease in patients
  • perform antibiotic sensitivity and allergy testing.

Skills and knowledge

Medical laboratory technicians need to have:

  • practical skills for performing experiments and operating scientific equipment
  • a thorough understanding of laboratory safety
  • a basic understanding of biological science
  • the ability to follow scientific procedures.

Working conditions

Medical laboratory technicians:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may also work weekends or shifts
  • work in hospitals or community medical laboratories
  • may have to travel locally to doctors' surgeries, hospitals, rest homes, patients' homes and workplaces.

What's the job really like?

Janice Siffleet.

Janice Siffleet

Medical Laboratory Technician

Janice Siffleet says she is continually learning in her role as a medical laboratory technician.

"Each week labs receive a sample to diagnose. We all rush to look at it, and compare notes. When they send the correct answer we know who was right – it’s a great way to learn."

She even keeps a book on haematology (the study of blood) by Barbara Bain beside her bed. "I say, 'I'm going to bed with Barbara Bain!' I have a read-up at night. And you learn so much from that."

Difficult but rewarding work

"We see a lot of very sad things – children with leukaemia, young people with breast cancer. You think what you can do to help them, but it's really what they do to help you. They ground you, and can humble you – a lot.

"You see some amazing people – their lives and what they are dealing with – and you think about your life and realise what you are dealing with is really quite small in the big picture. It's those very sick people who keep me going."

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a trainee medical laboratory technician as you train on the job.

To become a registered medical laboratory technician you need to:

  • work as a trainee medical laboratory technician in an approved laboratory for two years
  • gain the Qualified Medical Laboratory Technician (QMLT) certificate or hold a degree approved by the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand
  • hold a full driver's licence.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a medical laboratory technician. However, useful English, biology, chemistry, health, physics and maths are useful.

Personal requirements

Medical laboratory technicians need to be:

  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • able to work alone or in a team
  • competent at record-keeping
  • sensitive when dealing with patients.

Medical laboratory technicians should not be squeamish, as their work involves dealing with body samples.

Useful experience

Useful experience for medical laboratory technicians includes:

  • work in laboratories, particularly in the specimen reception area
  • work in the health sector
  • work with computers and information systems.

Registration

Medical laboratory technicians need to be registered with the Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand.

Find out more about training

Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand
(04) 801 6250 - mls@medsci.co.nz - www.mscouncil.org.nz
New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science (NZIMLS)
(03) 313 4761 - fran@nzimls.org.nz - www.nzimls.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Chances of getting a job as a medical laboratory technician are good due to:

  • an ageing population with more health problems that require tests
  • an ageing health workforce means many technicians may retire soon
  • not enough trainees to replace staff who leave.

Most medical laboratory technicians work in private laboratories

About two-thirds of medical laboratory technicians work in large private laboratories. The remainder mostly work in hospitals for district health boards or for the New Zealand Blood Service.

Sources

  • Health Workforce New Zealand, 'Health of the Health Workforce 2015', February 2016, (www.moh.govt.nz).
  • Medical Sciences Council of New Zealand website, accessed April 2017, (www.mscouncil.org.nz).
  • New Zealand Blood Service website, accessed April 2017, (www.nzblood.co.nz).
  • Page, J, patient services manager, Wellington SCL, Careers New Zealand interview, April 2017, (www.apath.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Experienced medical laboratory technicians may move into managerial positions.

With further training they may progress to become medical laboratory scientists.

Janice Siffleet inserts a row of samples into a testing machine.

Medical laboratory technicians help scientists with taking samples and running tests

Last updated 8 March 2019