What Exactly Is MLS/CLS? (Explanation + FAQ!)

I knew this post was necessary because a lot of you told me that you wanted to read all about my career path and also because this is going to be my career…so it’s a huge part of my life!


Medical Lab Sciences

Every time I tell someone that I’m applying to an MLS program or that I want to be a medical lab scientist, they always ask me, “What is that?” 

It’s an incredibly common question I get because although most people are aware that in medicine there are always tests and analyses being run, they’re unsure of the behind-the-scenes work. That is where Medical Lab Scientists, Clinical Lab Scientists, or Medical Technologists as they’re sometimes called, come in (and Medical Lab Technicians too!).

Over 70% of all diagnoses are made using information regarding a patient’s medical tests. So, as you can imagine they play an incredibly crucial role. This information is necessary to form a diagnosis and determine treatment, but also for usage in disease monitoring or prevention.


MTs (as I’ll refer to them for the rest of this post as to avoid confusion) play a necessary role in our healthcare system although they often don’t get the recognition they deserve. Whenever I talk about wanting to become an MT people are always surprised that the role exists! And I wonder where they thought all the test results came from… Without these tests, we would not have

Without these tests, we would not have the vital information necessary for diagnosis, and as you can imagine, the data is obtained from various tests and analyses done by MTs and MLTs. Most MTs are generalists (my mother is and so is my aunt. I imagine I will be too when I’m an MT) but some specialize in specific fields.

You can become a generalist but work in a bench like Hematology without saying that you’re a specialist. If you’re a generalist you have the opportunity to work and rotate benches, but if you’re only specialized in one (and not a generalist with a specialization) you can only work on that one bench.

According to ASCP (American Society for Clinical Pathology), technologist certification specialties include molecular biology, medical laboratory scientist, histotechnologist, blood banking, chemistry, hematology, microbiology, cytotechnologist and cytogenetics. Specialist certification options include pathologist’s assistant, laboratory safety, blood banking, chemistry, microbiology, hematology and cytotechnology.

I don’t know what I’ll specialize in, but I know for sure as a technologist that I will be a generalist so that I have the freedom to rotate benches if I please.

So, that is the nitty gritty general overview kind of stuff, so I’ll go into the personal questions that I’ve gotten that I will answer!


ASCP Requirements and Certification

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science

My mother, Mom Sass MLS.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset


Why aren’t a lot of people talking about this field/career?

I think it’s because not enough people are informed or aware that these programs and that this career exists! Tons of people want to be doctors, nurses, and pharmacists but they don’t realize that there are plenty of other careers in healthcare. There are so many different options that you can find the perfect one for YOU if you’re truly passionate about working in the healthcare industry.

My mom didn’t know about it until my aunt told her about it!

Is this your end-game career?


Yes and no. I talked about my career goals here.

I do want to be an MT, but it is not my end-game. I want to actually become a Medical Lab Director and have a management position so that I can help implement policies and manage the laboratory.

I’m one of those people that wants to do it all. I want to be able to work in a lab because I love lab work and find it fascinating, but I also love development and communications. I eventually want to get my Master’s in Healthcare Administration and my Master’s of Public Health (I know, I’ll be in school forever!), and I feel like this career is perfect for me and ties everything I want to do together.

Would you wear scrubs or normal clothes?

My friends love asking this. This depends on the hospital. My aunt’s hospital wears scrubs, but my mother’s hospital wears business casual (with gym shoes!). It really depends on their policy and procedures.

I would wear Hello Kitty or floral scrubs, though, if I were in a hospital that required scrubs. And yes, they wear lab coats.

What would you specialize in?

I honestly don’t know. I’ll tell you guys once I’m in the program and I have had experience in all fields!

Why don’t you want to be a doctor?

I think that physicians are phenomenal people and have the utmost respect for them. I also acknowledge that becoming a doctor is not for everyone and that it is not for me.

If you knew this was the career you wanted, would you have taken the same path?

No. I would have done a 2+2 program and done two years of pre-requisites before applying to the program.

I think that a two-year program is better for me personally than a one-year because the learning isn’t as rushed and it is easier to have one year of clinical lectures and one year of actual rotations and interning. However, I do see the appeal of one-year programs.

What would your career be if it wasn’t this?

I would want to be a forensic scientist or criminalist. I told you guys that I find lab work fascinating!


All in all, I hope that this post was informative! You all are always asking me about MLS and what exactly it is, so I hope this clarified everything! If you have any questions about MLS/CLS, don’t ever hesitate to ask because I am always more than willing to answer!

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”

Jim Rohn
What is your dream career? I’ve talked about my career goals plenty of times and I want to know what yours is!

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