What is a Cytotechnologist?

Cytotechnologists are college trained laboratory scientists that prepare and examine human cells for the presence of disease. They rely on their detailed knowledge of normal cell anatomy. They compare normal and abnormal cell anatomy and then evaluate the significance of the differences. They will identify diseases such as cancer, tuberculosis, and HIV. They identify disease in various stages and can be instrumental in identifying patients in early stages of cancer.

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What does a Cytotechnologist do?

Cytotechnologists are responsible for the microscopic examination of cells. They work with other laboratory members evaluating human cell samples. Once variances are identified they are responsible for determining the level of significance for these abnormalities. They are an integral part of diagnosing diseases and abnormalities that affect human lives.

The technologist receives human samples and prepares them for examination using standardized, scientific processes. Preparing slides accurately is extremely important in order to obtain accurate results. The slides are then examined using a variety of microscopic equipment. Once abnormal cells are identified the technologist uses their knowledge of cell anatomy and disease to determine the significance of the abnormalities. They are responsible for writing a detailed report of their findings. Once the report is completed it is forwarded to a pathologist. The pathologist is a physician; he or she confirms and signs off on the technologist’s report, and it is sent to the patient’s physician.

What does it take to be a Cytotechnologist?

Prospective cytotechnologists must have shown a positive aptitude for the sciences in high school. High SAT scores in science, English, and math will be beneficial when applying for entrance to colleges. A positive history of honors classes will also be beneficial.

Cytotechnologists must be able to focus on a small sample for long periods of time. Attention to detail is essential. They work with remarkably little supervision and must be able to organize and monitor their workday. They need exceptional vision, whether natural or corrected, in order to pick out minor differences in cells. They must also be comfortable working with complex machinery and interacting with other laboratory team members. The ability to follow written directions is another key personality trait.

The entry-level requirement for this field is a bachelor’s degree in cell biology. This program prepares graduates to work in the laboratory, to use various equipment, and to understand scientific processes and cell anatomy. Upon graduation, the student is prepared to begin working in the field. Additional training will be received on the job.

Cytotechnologists can also earn a master's and doctorate degree. 2010 studies in North America identified that 50% of technologist hold a bachelor’s degree and 45% have a masters. The remaining 5% hold doctorate degrees.

There are numerous colleges around the globe that offer bachelor, master and doctorate degrees in cell biology. This is the degree cytotechnologists must have. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland has a world-renowned biology department. They offer both BS and MS degrees in molecular and cell biology. Students do their clinical rotations at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Duke University in North Carolina is another college that has students from around the globe seeking their education in cellular biology there. They offer BS, MS, and Doctorate programs. Their biology department has a variety of degree focuses including Cellular and Molecular Biology. Students emerge ready to take on the responsibilities of a cytotechnologist.

The University of Queensland offers a BS in Molecular Cell Biology and has a strong international reputation. The course curriculum is comparable to those in other nations. The University of York and the Kingston University in the U.K. also have reputable programs that have established themselves as leading universities in the biological sciences.

What is the workplace of a Cytotechnologist like?

Cytotechnologists work in laboratories. A laboratory may be in a hospital, independent lab, or research facility. The labs can be noisy at times. They contain a variety of dangerous chemicals and sophisticated machinery. Cell samples can carry communicable diseases. The technologists must follow established policies and procedures to ensure they stay safe. Space is usually limited and must stay clean and organized.

People in this profession will spend hours sitting on a lab stool looking into a microscope. They carefully compare each part of the cell with normal cells, looking for even the slightest difference. Throughout their workday, they will move about the lab and use various personal safety devices such as gloves, gowns, lab coats, face shields, and other personal protective equipment.

How much does a Cytotechnologist earn?

Like most occupations, earnings vary depending on experience, educational training, and geographical area. In North America, the average yearly income is around $45,000 to $50,000. Jobs are predicted to increase at about 13% per year over the next five to ten years. Private sector jobs are growing faster than the public sector. The highest salaries are realized in private research and development laboratories. Urban areas have a higher demand and offer better salaries than rural settings.

Cytotechnologists enjoy a profession that offers long-term employment in a comfortable environment. They get to make a difference in people’s lives by detecting early onset of diseases such as cancer. They work with other professionals but are able to organize their own day. They function independently with little oversight. They make a salary sufficient enough to provide them with a comfortable lifestyle. They normally work a standard 40-hour week on a 9am to 5pm workday. It will provide the graduate with a lifetime career in which they can advance as desired.

Learn more about being a Cytotechnologist