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Vol State trains lab techs for hospitals, clinics and research

Staff Reports • Updated Jan 5, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Laboratory work is an important diagnostic tool for doctors. 

The tests are often conducted by medical laboratory technicians. It’s an expanding job field and the need for qualified and licensed lab techs is especially acute in certain areas of Tennessee. 

Volunteer State Community College has a medical laboratory technology program to train the next generation of lab professionals.

“There’s a shortage of lab techs in Tennessee and nationally,” said MLT program director Kim-Sue Tudor. “We’re able to help with those staffing problems. It’s particularly important in rural areas where there is a great need.”

Tennessee requires a state license to work in a lab. That’s just one reason why many biology majors with four-year degrees come to the Vol State program for technical training and to prepare for licensure.

“I majored in microbiology at MTSU, and I enjoyed my lab classes,” said student Iya Stover, of Nashville. “I want to be a generalist in a hospital lab. You do a little bit of everything, including blood bank, microbiology and chemistry.” 

Other specialty areas for lab techs are urinalysis, hematology, and immunology. Lab professionals often start as generalists and move into specialty areas as they progress in their career. Eventually they can go on to supervise laboratory work as a lab manager.

“I like the critical thinking aspect of lab work and having a job that allows me to use math and science,” said Jarvis Cox-Burgess, of Murfreesboro. “I always wanted to work in health care, so this brought all my interests together.”

And it’s not just hospitals that need licensed lab professionals. 

“Medical laboratory techs also staff labs in clinical research, working on clinical trials, drug testing and medical device testing,” Tudor said.

There are many paths to the Vol State program for students, from straight out of high school to advanced training after a general four-year degree. But all students will need to satisfy Vol State general education requirements before they can enter the program. There is also a requirement that all interested students take the introduction to medical laboratory technology class at Vol State. The application deadline for MLT is March 1, and the program starts with a new class in the summer. That means some students who already have college level work could take the needed classes this coming spring semester and still apply for the summer program start. For more information about those requirements, visit volstate.edu/medlabtech.

Volunteer State Community College has more than 90 programs of study and offers two-year degrees, certificates and paths to university transfer. Continuing education and workforce development extend the college mission to the entire community. For more information, visit volstate.edu.

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