Suppose you have ever wondered what degree is best for anyone aspiring to become a clinical Cytogenetic Technologist. In that case, this post breaks everything you need to know from what qualifications, how much money you earn as a Cytogenetics technician to career potential.
What degree do you need to be a technologist?
To become a Clinical Cytogenetic technologist, you need a bachelor’s degree in life sciences with a major in medical technology. To study and graduate from university as a Cytogenetic technologist, you will to join an education program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.
What is a cytogenetic technician?
Cytogenetic technologists are physicians that work on diagnosing as well as treating a variety of diseases. While this definition might sound broad, cytogenetic technologists aren’t your typical kind of doctors.
Unlike most doctors and other medical professionals, anesthesiologists for instance), cytogenetic technologists identify their patient’s medical conditions by taking a different approach; a genetic method, just as the name states.
Are you considering on becoming a cytogenetic technologist? Do you want to know the skills as well as the education required in this career? Then, look no further.
This article contains information about the training, certifications, salary and the job outlook- all the stuff that ought to set you up for success in this specialization.
Who are cytogenetic technologists?
In simple terms, Cytogenetic technologists are physicians that specialize in analysis of human DNA in assessing various medical issues.
These are the specialists whose duties are to organize and analyze genes that are carried in a particular patient’s DNA.
Their study and examination of this DNA gives them a better understanding of the relationship between health and heredity.
With this expertise, they can diagnose and treat a wide scope of diseases, particularly those directly related to chromosomes.
Examples of such genetic diseases are tumors, birth imperfections and several types of blood conditions- just to mention a few.
Due to the nature of their work, cytogenetic technologists have to be skilled in factors such as communication, problem-solving and stress management.
With the 13% job growth in the medical field, cytogenetic technology is one of the most lucrative careers in the world, and will continue to grow in the future.
What is this career like?
As we mentioned a few notes ago, a cytogenetic technologist’s job involves studying their patient’s chromosomal material. During this study, they are said to use slides as well as nerve or tissue values.
Through such a study, they are able determine the connection of a particular disease to the patient’s DNA.
As cytogenetic technologists, they are required to do various duties, some which have been explained below:
Collecting samples of living cells
On a typical day, this is always the first step in the cytogenetic technologist’s duties. The CT must collect the patient’s DNA material.
Since all the diagnosis and treatment of the patient’s condition will greatly depend upon the DNA collected by the cytogenetic technologist, he/she must exercise proficiency when collecting this material.
This involves making sure that the equipment is clean and the patient is stable. Also, this must be done in a nontoxic environment to ensure that the material doesn’t get contaminated.
Prepping the collected DNA
After the cultures of living cells have been collected, taking into account the requirements mentioned above, the cytogenetic technologist has to properly prepare the collected material before it goes into the analysis process.
When preparing the collected genetic material for review, the CT will be required to place the material on a surface (platter) that will make the examination process easy and effective, and gather up the equipment that will be needed for the scrutiny. These include things like a computer, a reference manual (optional) and, of course, a microscope.
Examining the DNA involves the actual analysis of the collected tissue cells. In this way, the cytogenetic technologist works on identifying the normal and abnormal chromosomes and properly distinguishing their characteristics.
This duty is done by using the microscope. In this case, the cytogenetic technologists will often spend minutes, hours or even a couple of days to properly diagnose the DNA material.
Usually, the length of the examination will depend upon the type of medical condition that is being assessed.
Detecting DNA defects
When the cytogenetic technologist prepares the sampled DNA and subjects it to various tests including the cytogenetic analysis under a microscope, they are able to tell if the condition that a patient has is connected to that particular patient’s chromosomes.
In this case, the flaws in the DNA will be detected.
Reporting findings to physicians for diagnosis and treatment
Whether defects where found or not, the cytogenetic technologist has the responsibility to give a detailed report of his/her findings to other physicians, who will then work on diagnosing and providing the accurate treatment to the patient.
In other words, the cytogenetic technologist’s findings are the key to finding the right treatment for patients, specifically the ones that have a genetic-related condition.
Cytogenetic Technologists vs. Cytotechnologist
Many people tend to confuse cytogenetic technologists and cytotechnologists, so it is important that we should set the records straight.
If observed, one can very easily assume that the name “cytogenetic technologist” was only shortened to make “cytotechnologists.”
Also, these specialisms are quite similar. They both work in a lab setting and both jobs involve peeking through a microscope. This means that both professions require a high level of precision as well as curiosity.
Despite the remarkable similarities, both of these careers are quite different. They are only considered to be closely related than to be referred to as the same profession. Either way, both of these professions are relevant and encompassed in the medical field.
In this section, we want to look at some of the advantages, disadvantages as well as the similarities and differences that these professions have, based on the nature of work and the level of education required to pursue such. Let’s dive in
What is the nature of the work?
On nature of work, we want to look at the major day-to-day activities.
These are physicians that specialize in the cell structure. Besides that, they are able to know about the various functions of a cell.
These Cytotechnologists will often find themselves using a microscope a couple of times in a day. Typical Cytotechnologists frequently use the use large and very powerful equipment, like a microscope.
Using the microscope, the cytotechnologists are able to find see the signs that may indicate that one or a couple of cells are faulty.
If the cell imperfections are noticed, the cytotechnologist is supposed to write down all of these findings, which will then be given to the pathologist for a further review.
There are other cases where the test to be performed is minor and less significant. In such situations, the cytotechnologist is able to make the final ruling on the diagnosis, examinations, findings and even the treatments to be administered to the patient. If the cases are major, they have to be looked over by a pathologists. As such, this requires a great amount of coordination in the health facility.
While Cytotechnologists specifically focus on a cell’s standard structures in order to detect any signs of a medical problems, Cytogenetic technologists focus goes to profound depths.
As we mentioned a couple of times in this article, cytogenetic technologists primarily concentrate on the chromosomes in the cell’s DNA of the sampled specimen.
In this way, they are able to find basic irregularities (if any) that will indicate to the technologist that there is a medical problem.
Inherently, this is how cytogenetic technologists are able to see the slightest and most unusual diseases. Alternatively, they see health conditions far before they hit the patient’s radar.
In terms of the disorders, cytogenetic technologists are able to diagnose health problems such as breast cancer, especially because this disease can be passed on to families through genes.
With this career, you can even go deeper and detect various genetic health issues. These are conditions like Down’s syndrome– that’s before the child is born.
After you have finished your preparation and diagnosis, the cytogenetic technologist is required to pass the slides to another physician, who will then scrutinize the results and make any other necessary queries where valid.
What about the training?
This section will mainly differentiate a cytogenetic technologist from a cytotechnologist based on the training.
Cytogenetic technologist Training
To qualify for the cytogenetic training, you must first complete medical school and acquire your bachelor’s degree in either life sciences or biotechnology.
In America,this training program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences and it can be taken in various endorsed institutions near you.
Also, you can opt of adding this to your bachelor’s degree, even if you didn’t major in a biological or a science-related program.
It is also recommended that you work towards a master’s or a doctoral degree in either microbiology, biotechnology or genetics, especially if your dream is to lead your own team as a manager.
On the other hand, you need to have a bachelor’s degree (as the minimum requirement) if you plan on becoming a cytotechnologist.
This bachelor’s degree should be from an accredited institution, otherwise you will face a huge predicament in the face of potential employers in the job market.
After completing your bachelor’s degree program, you will also need to graduate from a cytotechnologist program, which is a certificate program that normally lasts for about a year
Your course work should include statistics or other advanced math, and you’ll need a strong grounding in organic chemistry and biology.
This certificate program is approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). This is the certificate that will make you credible in this career.
However, it is worth knowing that you don’t really need to be certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology to be able to be in office (or lab in this case).
Generally, Cytogenetic technologists do all their work in hospitals, private labs, even government services, and many more.
Just like most medical professionals, they usually work in shifts, which last for about 8 hours. Depending on the amount of work have, cytogenetic technologists will often find themselves working on weekends as well.
In terms of the environment, it can be a stressful. This is because they are mostly under the pressure of working to full proficiency at all times, and they often have complex tasks to accomplish.
What skills are needed?
The nature of a cytogenetic technologist’s job requires him/her to be a highly skilled and proficient person. In this section, we will outline the top 5 essential skills that will set you up for success in this field.
Working in a lab means that you have to pay close attention to your study, examinations and any changes that you may find.
As a cytogenetic technologist, you should have good communication skills, which includes both verbal and written, since you will likely be communicating to a lot of patients and other medical professionals.
Technical Skills (lab skills)
These specialists have good technical skills that will enable them to work in a lab efficiently.
I can’t stress this point enough- pun intended, but a cytogenetic technologist has to be good at managing stress. Spending all day peeking through the microscope can be a very stressful task.
Cytogenetic technologists are naturally curious people that like to solve puzzles and don’t take a moment off until they solve a problem. Incorporating such skills in this medical field will likely lead to a successful career.
While in high school students should put a lot of attention on subjects like biology, geometry and chemistry. This ought to set a great foundation onto which you will then add a bachelor’s degree.
What is the pay?
The median annual salary is currently at $61,770, but of course the salary depends on more than a few factors, such as size of the medical organization, level of education and experience, among others.
Location of the company can also play a huge role on the amount of salary you will receive, as some states offer a higher rate.
What is the career outlook?
Rendering to the information by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of genetics, including the demand for cytogenetic technologists, is expected to grow. A report by the BLS stated that in May of 2017, the salary of cytogenetic technologists was at an average of $51,770. This clearly shows that the field is expanding.
In fact, the field of medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians was said to have an approximate growth of 13% within 10 years, from 2016 to about 2026. Compared to other professions combined, the growth in this field is faster than average. How is increasing at such a fast rate.
The first reason is the growth of elderly population. Since the population of the elderly is at a steady rise, most of these elderly people tend to get diagnosed more times than younger people.
Also, the increase in the requirement for diagnosing various medical conditions is another factor. Despite the elderly, people of all ages may experience health problems which may need a cytogenetic technologist’s examinations and results in order to trace a problem in genetics and figure out ways to treat it based upon those factors.
These factors have led to the growth of the clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, including standard doctors and cytogenetic technologists.
As this medical field grows, the use of targeted therapies is another factor that will likely lead to the increase of demand for professional cytogenetic technologists. On top of that, most cytogenetic technologists will upgrade their qualifications, which will push them up the career ladder to higher management positions like lab managers.
What education is required?
The minimum academic qualification required to become a Cytogenetic technologist is an associate’s degree in life science earned from an accredited institution. This associate’s degree program usually lasts for about 2 years.
If you want to increase your chances of securing a higher paying job, it is a good idea to go for a bachelor’s degree program. Some employers may strictly want this 4-year degree. In fact, most cytogenetic technologists have nowadays have acquired a bachelor’s degree in either life sciences or medical science.
To top that off, you might opt on having a certification. Every so often, employers may require an additional certification to the bachelor’s or associate’s degree.
The most common certification is the American Society of Clinical Pathologists certification program. With this certificate, you will have a wide scope of employers available.
Also, if you would like to upgrade your education, you might opt for a master’s degree. This 1 to 2 years program should be primarily focusses on cytogenetic technology.
In Summary, here’s what you will need:
Associate’s degree in life sciences
This degree is a great first step into your cytogenetic career. The program lasts for about 2 years.
Bachelor’s degree in life sciences/medical science
After completing your associate’s degree, you can then upgrade to a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, you can also start from the bachelor’s degree level without having to obtain an associate’s degree prior.
Beside the bachelor’s degree in cytogenetic technology, the bachelor’s degree can be concentrated on biotechnology, biology or any other science-related degree.
Post graduate degree
Just as in any career, going up the qualification ladder can come with a lot of benefits, including a higher salary.
A post-graduate degree usually has a duration of about 1 to 2 years. Most people prefer obtaining a post-graduate degree before applying for cytogenetic technology certifications, which we will talk about below.
Licensure or Certifications
Certifications are one of the key factors that make you stand out in the eyes of potentials employers.
Not only are certifications good on the resume, though. They are a requirement for you to be able to go into practice- at least in some states.
Below are the certifications that are required for you to excel in the cytogenetic technology career.
Licensure as a clinical laboratory scientist
The Licensure as a clinical laboratory scientist is a state-based qualification that that is awarded after a candidate passes the U.S. Medical and Licensing Examination (USMLE).
To obtain this licensure, you must graduate from an accredited and well-endorsed medical school.
Having this licensure permits you to work in a healthcare medical lab which, as a cytogenetic technologist, is where you will be spending most of your time.
American Society of Clinical pathologists Certification
This certification is awarded by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP). While this is not a very common certification on other states, employers from other states often call for it.
To be certified as a cytogenetic technologist by this institution, you will have to work for a period of at least 9 months to a full year in a well-recognized cytogenetics laboratory, after which you will have to pass the certification assessment.