Cytotechnologist Job Description
Cytotechnologists study slides of cells under a microscope to search for abnormalities and cellular anomalies. Laboratories and medical facilities hire cytotechnologists to work full-time, flexible hours during all shifts, including evenings and weekends in some cases, depending on the hours maintained by the facility. Cytotechnologists function within a collaborative team environment and work with little supervision, primarily reporting to a laboratory supervisor. Cytotechnologists work exclusively within lab environments and are not usually required to travel to perform their normal job duties.
Cytotechnologist Duties and Responsibilities
Daily duties performed by cytotechnologists vary based on the types of cells they’re studying, the number of slides they prepare, and the number of specimens coming into the laboratory where they work. However, there are several core job tasks associated with this career that are universal in all lab environments:
Cytotechnologists prepare slides of cells for examination by staining and mounting specimens.
Cytotechnologists examine slides of human cells under microscopes.
Cytotechnologists classify all examined slides and prepare a preliminary diagnosis of each.
Cytotechnologists write reports on abnormalities found in examined cells.
Prepare Slide Materials
Cytotechnologists prepare stains, solutions, and reagents to be used for slides.
Assist in Collection
Cytotechnologists assist in the collection of cells to be used for examination.
Cytotechnologists adhere to all lab safety protocols to avoid contamination of specimens and minimize the risk of workplace incidents.
Write Daily Log
Cytotechnologists keep a daily log of specimens examined and document all findings in the log.
Cytotechnologists perform maintenance on microscopes and other lab equipment. This includes cleaning and calibrating equipment as needed to keep it functioning at peak levels.
Cytotechnologist Skills and Qualifications
Cytotechnologists examine and diagnosis cells under microscopes while working in a team-oriented laboratory environment. Employers hire cytotechnologists who have all the skills needed to perform the daily tasks required of this job:
- Communication skills – cytotechnologists use good verbal communication skills to work in a collaborative laboratory environment and written communication skills to write reports detailing their findings
- Attention to detail – cytotechnologists examine slides, noticing even the smallest deviations
- Analytical ability – cytotechnologists diagnose abnormalities found in cells
- Physical ability – cytotechnologists spend hours standing
- Mechanical skills – cytotechnologists use mechanical skills and good manual dexterity to work with microscopes, placing slides and making adjustments as needed
- Computer skills – cytotechnologists access digital files and key information into digital documents
Tools of the Trade
Cytotechnologists regularly work with the following tools and equipment:
- Lab tools (tongs, test tubes)
- Safety equipment (gloves, safety glasses, shoe covers, aprons)
Cytotechnologist Education and Training
Employers look for cytotechnologists who have a bachelor’s degree in cytopathology technology, biology, or a related medical field, and/or professionals who have obtained their ASCP certification. This is a certification exam administered through the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Some employers additionally require cytotechnologists who have completed an internship program in cytology, and/or who have past work experience in a laboratory environment.
Very little training is provided to cytotechnologists, who should have the education to diagnose abnormal cells and a basic understanding of laboratory procedures. However, some labs may provide cytotechnologists with brief orientation training to show them the specific procedures used by the lab in regard to preparing, examining, and logging specimens. This orientation is brief, usually lasting no more than two weeks in most lab environments.
Cytotechnologist Salary and Outlook
Data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned $24.89 median hourly pay and $51,770 median annual pay in 2017. These professionals occupied more than 300,000 jobs in 2016, a number the BLS expects to rise by 13 percent through the year 2026. This is faster than the national average job growth rate. Cytotechnologists are a specialized type of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, professionals who perform tests on lab specimens. According to PayScale, cytotechnologists earn a median hourly income of $30.97.
Full benefits packages are provided to most cytotechnologists by their employers. These packages typically include health insurance with dental and vision coverage, life insurance, and retirement planning options. Paid holidays, sick days, and vacation days are also usually offered in these packages. Some labs may offer additional job perks to cytotechnologists, including free meals and free parking.
Explore these resources to find jobs, learn essential career skills, and stay current on news updates for cytotechnologists:
American Society for Cytotechnology – Search for jobs in cytotechnology, explore links and resources for cytotechnologists, learn more about licensing programs, and find out how to attend industry conferences on this website designed for cytotechnologists.
Comprehensive Cytopathology E-Book – This comprehensive guidebook offers tips and techniques for the diagnosis and screening of cells, and includes diagnostic tables and full-color images illustrating abnormal findings in cells.
American Society of Cytopathology – This website for cytotechnologists provides education and training tools, as well as news updates, upcoming event dates, and useful content.
Clinical Laboratory Cytotechnology Review: 2000 Questions and Answers with Rationale – This book contains 2,000 questions and their explanations to serve as an in-depth guide to cytotechnologists at all levels of their career.
The International Academy of Cytology – Visit this website to find educational resources, read industry journals, and discover other resources for all career cytotechnologists and cytology professionals.
Diagnostic Pathology: Cytopathology, 2nd ed. – This book provides information about all types of cytotechnology, including diagnostic tables and quick-access references.
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