Histotechnology is the science of studying and working with cells and how they form tissues and organs. Cells are the simplest structures in our bodies, and our cells behave in certain ways according to health issues and other causes. Histologists understand cell biology and can use medications that work at the cellular level to treat diseases.
What Do Histologists Do?
Much of what a histologist does is examine cells using special dyes and make reports on the condition of cells taken from patients. Histologists must understand how to mix dyes and other tints to prepare accurate cell biopsy slides to aid doctors in their diagnoses and treatment of disease. Histologists may also use DNA techniques to help doctors identify disease.
The difference between histotechnicians, or HTs, and histotechnologists, or HTLs, is slight but important. Both individuals are part of a team that uses histology to conduct research and diagnose diseases. A histotechnologist prepares the slides for microscopic examination using tissue from a patient or other living organism. This is one of the most difficult jobs in the histology process, because if a histotechnologist does not make slides properly they cannot be used in diagnosis or treatment of patients or for important research.
How Much Does a Histotechnologist Make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary for all medical laboratory technicians (and histotechnologists fass within this category) was $56,130 per year as of May, 2010. This includes all medical laboratory technicians working in all locations. Those working for the federal government earned $62,880 per year in 2010; those working in hospitals earned $56,470; those working in medical and diagnostic labs earn $55,930; and those working in doctor’s offices and clinics earn $52,250.
However, not all of those classified as “medical laboratory technicians” earn the same amounts. According to the BLS, hospital employees classified as medical laboratory scientists earn a median hourly wage of $28.62, while medical laboratory technicians earn $21.02 per hour. Phlebotomists, those technicians that draw blood, earn $13.50 per hour, while histotechnologists earn $28.66. Histotechnicians earn slightly less at $24.16 per hour, and cytotechnologists earn slightly more at $24.16 per hour.
What Is the Job Outlook for Histotechnologists?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the job outlook for medical laboratory specialists in general is a growth rate of between 11 and 15 percent in the next ten years, or about as fast as average for most occupations. However, certain jobs in certain locations may grow in numbers faster than others. Any jobs associated with the aging population will probably experience a faster rate of growth as the elderly become a larger and larger group of healthcare consumers.
Jobs will also be more prevalent in populated areas, although rural clinics and hospitals that are expanding to provide more health care services may also need to hire more technicians of all types.
How Do I Become a Histotechnologist?
Histotechnology is a highly specialized area of study that requires a four-year degree and possible licensing in some states for students who wish to work in this area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both states and individual employers can require licensing to perform these jobs. Although there is no standardized national test for histotechnologists national organizations often contribute to state exams to ensure that the standards for the profession remain similar across state lines.
In order to become a histotechnologist, a student will need strong skills in math and science. If you are a good math and science student in high school, take the most challenging curriculum possible to build your skills. In college, you will take biology, chemistry, and other classes designed to teach you about cell biology before you take specific classes to develop your histology skills.
Histotechnology is a growing and challenging field for students who enjoy studying cell biology and would like to help patients by diagnosing disease at the cellular level.