How to Become a Phlebotomist

The name of this career may be tricky, but don’t let it scare you away.

A Phlebotomist takes blood, inserts IVs, and prepares samples for different treatments.

These skilled workers are very important to the medical field, as they help doctors, nurses, surgeons, and other team members.

You can expect to find career opportunities in many different places as a Phlebotomist, including hospitals, labs, outpatient facilities, and even donation centers.

This can be a lifelong career or just a stepping stone to a great career in the medical field, it’s all up to you.

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Phlebotomist Job Description

There’s more to a Phlebotomist than just sticking needles in their patients.

A Phlebotomist must be skilled in many areas of the medical field in order to understand how to take samples for various treatments.

Phlebotomists also help with transfusions and blood drives, so they must know how to work with many different people and keep things safe, sanitized, and properly taken care of.

There are Phlebotomists who work in hospitals taking blood, and Phlebotomists who work in labs labeling and identifying different blood samples.

Where you work and the type of control you have over your career is up to you.

Duties

A Phlebotomist will have a busy day pretty much every day.

That’s because, around the clock, patients need blood work done for various treatments and procedures.

Some of the duties that a Phlebotomist can expect to encounter on a daily basis include:

  • Prepare patients
  • Verify patients identity
  • Draw blood samples
  • Conduct blood transfusions
  • Reassure nervous patients
  • Identify and label samples
  • Assist with any adverse reactions

Salary

Most Phlebotomists in the United States will make about $36,000 a year on average.

Those who have more education and certifications will likely make up to $49,000 a year in most areas.

However, if you are just beginning your career as a Phlebotomist, it is likely that you will earn closer to $29,000 a year to begin.

With experience and education, there are many opportunities to have a great career as a Phlebotomist.

Those who work in larger populations or in areas with high elderly populations typically make more money.

Also, working in large hospitals rather than small clinics can provide higher pay as well.

Average National Salary: $36,480

$26K
10%
$29K
25%
$36K
50%
$41K
75%
$49K
90%

Average Phlebotomist Salary by State

State Salary
Alabama $33,069
Alaska $39,563
Arizona $34,893
Arkansas $32,549
California $39,422
Colorado $35,187
Connecticut $38,187
Delaware $37,057
Florida $33,528
Georgia $34,146
Hawaii $37,029
Idaho $33,310
Illinois $36,246
Indiana $34,481
Iowa $33,775
Kansas $33,493
Kentucky $33,210
Louisiana $33,810
Maine $34,022
Maryland $36,389
Massachusetts $38,398
Michigan $35,321
Minnesota $36,104
Mississippi $30,705
Missouri $33,634
Montana $31,993
Nebraska $32,363
Nevada $36,175
New Hampshire $35,822
New Jersey $39,020
New Mexico $32,257
New York $37,869
North Carolina $33,669
North Dakota $33,140
Ohio $34,460
Oklahoma $33,175
Oregon $35,151
Pennsylvania $35,222
Rhode Island $37,198
South Carolina $33,034
South Dakota $30,211
Tennessee $32,063
Texas $34,656
Utah $33,437
Vermont $33,987
Virginia $35,081
Washington $37,693
West Virginia $31,269
Wisconsin $34,763
Wyoming $31,410
* Salary information last updated 2021

How to Become a Phlebotomist

Step 1 Earn a Degree

In order to become a Phlebotomist in the United States, it is important to gain some type of education.

There are a number of types of programs that are great for Phlebotomists that range from 6 weeks to 1 year to finish.

These types of programs can be done online or in person, but it’s necessary to have in-person training as well.

With a short program, the knowledge you will gain is entry-level compared to people who earn an Associate’s degree.

One year programs will result in a certificate, and earning an Associate’s degree will provide a diploma.

Whatever path you choose is up to you, just make sure that you have a lot of hands-on experience before your first day of work.

Deciding on a program can be difficult, so make sure that the school is accredited with the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

Some of the classes that you will typically take in a one year or two-year program are:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Diseases of the Human Body
  • CPR and First Aid
  • Biology
  • Phlebotomy Lab Skills

Step 2 Become Certified

Once you earn a degree or a certificate as a Phlebotomist, it may be necessary to become certified as well.

Some states don’t require certification, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause.

Certification shows employers and patients that you have the knowledge and competence to do a good job.

The American Society of Clinical Pathology has the Certified Phlebotomist credential.

This certification requires that you have:

  • Earned a degree from an accredited program
  • CPR verification
  • Supervised clinical experience
  • A passing grade on the exam

The exam that comes with the Certified Phlebotomist credential comes in two parts.

The first part of the exam is written, and the second part of the exam consists of showing off your skills in person during a live demonstration.

There are several other associations that provide a similar Certified Phlebotomist credential including:

  • American Certification Agency
  • American Medical Technologists

Step 3 Gain Employment

Of course, you’re not going to spend time getting all that education and not look for a job.

While in school, you may likely find that you will need to work an internship in order to graduate.

This can give you much needed hands-on experience, while possibly earning pay as well.

For those who don’t get the internship experience, finding a career can be a bit more difficult.

There are several places that a Phlebotomist can find employment, like:

  • Hospitals
  • Labs
  • Emergency Rooms
  • Urgent Care Centers
  • Private Practices

Maintaining credentials and looking for new ways to gain education will help with career opportunities in this career as well.

Some Phlebotomists use this career as a life-long goal, while others may use it as a stepping stone into something else in the medical field.

Step 4 Further Your Career

The best way to get a promotion as a Phlebotomist is to earn a Bachelors degree.

This degree should take another two years to complete when added to an Associate’s degree.

Some of the typical classes that a Phlebotomist program will include are:

  • Hematology
  • Urinalysis
  • Medical Immunology
  • Transfusion Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Fundamentals

It’s likely that you will also have to take part in an internship to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree.

This can be done by volunteering or working in the various places listed above.

You can also find careers in many of these other areas with a Bachelors degree in this field:

  • Medical Assistant
  • EKG Technician
  • Physicians Assistant
  • Nursing
  • Medical Lab Technician
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Education

Depending on the type of program that you want to enter as a Phlebotomist, it can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 years to begin your career.

Some 6-week programs can be done online with tests done in person, but these can be difficult as they don’t provide much education.

Most Phlebotomists choose to earn a certificate from a one-year program or earn an Associate’s degree, which takes about two years to finish.

One year programs provide entry-level knowledge to Phlebotomists.

These types of programs have courses that include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Blood Cell Composition
  • Lab Safety
  • CPR

Some one-year programs provide labs to their students, but others may require students to do it outside of classroom time.

For a more extensive education, many Phlebotomists choose to earn an Associate’s degree.

With these programs, it’s likely that you will have to take on an internship as well as work in a lab.

Throughout lab work, you will likely learn how to test blood samples, take blood, and insert needles into fake and real objects.

Along with the aforementioned courses, this type of program will have other areas of study, such as:

  • Hematology
  • Phlebotomy
  • Microbiology
  • Blood Banking
  • Clinical Chemistry
  • Healthcare Principles

There will likely be many labs required in order to graduate from an Associate’s degree program.

This is because a Phlebotomist must have a lot of hands-on experience before entering the workforce.

No one wants to get stuck with a needle by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Most labs and internships will require you to work with real patients in order to get the hang of the job.

Earning a degree is a safe way to ensure that you will have a long career as a Phlebotomist or a great step in the medical field that will lead to many other opportunities.

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Certification & Licensing

There are some states that don’t require licensure or certification in order to work as a Phlebotomist.

In fact, only four states require that a Phlebotomist become certified in order to work:

  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • Washington

Most of the time, the employer requires certification in order to determine if their employees are competent in the field.

In order to be eligible for certification as a Phlebotomist, there are some steps that you need to take:

  • Earn a degree from an accredited program
  • Supervised clinical experience
  • Passing the certification exam
  • CPR Training

There are many options for associations to become a Certified Phlebotomist, many of which can be found online:

  • American Society of Clinical Pathology
  • American Certification Agency
  • American Medical Technologists

The American Society of Clinical Pathology offers the Certified Phlebotomist credential.

The exam for this certification is computer-based and has anywhere from 150 to 200 questions.

You must pass with at least a score of 70 to become certified.

There are many topics covered on this exam, including:

  • Circulatory System
  • Point-of-Care Testing
  • Specimen Collection
  • Non-Blood Specimens

The American Certification Agency has a similar credential with the same name, Certified Phlebotomist.

To be eligible for this credential, you must have at least 100 hours of clinical training and have passed an education program.

Another requirement is to have at least 50 live pokes on people.

This is a two-hour exam that covers many topics as well, including a live demonstration.

To be eligible for the American Medical Technologists certification, you will need to have graduated from an accredited program as well as have at least 140 hours of clinical experience.

This exam covers a range of topics, such as:

  • Obtaining Blood Samples
  • Professional Communications
  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Legal and Ethical Considerations

Each of these certifications will likely require a live demonstration of your skills as a Phlebotomist.

Earning a certification can lead to many open doors and new opportunities in the medical field.

Average Training Program Duration: 0-1 Year


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Job Outlook

There really doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for Phlebotomists, at least not for the next decade.

This career will grow about 17 percent over the next ten years, which is a lot more than many other careers.

Even with all of the technological advancements in the world of medicine, blood samples are still the most accurate, and most used method to diagnose and treat patients.

That fact, combined with the growing elderly population, means that there will be a necessity for Phlebotomists for a very long time.

Those who have certifications and specializations will typically find more career opportunities.

Employment Growth Projection: 17%

132,600
2019
155,500
2029

That's a higher than average projected growth of 22,900


Should You Become a Phlebotomist?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Phlebotomists who have certifications and proper education find their career more fulfilling than ones who start their career right after high school.

This occupation has its ups and downs, but most Phlebotomists enjoy their jobs and love to help their patients.

Phlebotomists find this career to be less stressful than many other careers in the medical field, as the hours aren’t as long.

Working in large hospitals or labs may cause you to work longer hours.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

The average Phlebotomist makes about $36,000 a year in the United States.

If you have minimal education and hands-on experience, you’ll likely make less money, around $29,000 a year.

Having relevant education and certifications can provide many more opportunities for promotions and raises.

A Phlebotomist at the top of their career can make close to $50,000 a year in some areas.

Working in California, a Phlebotomist makes about $45,000 a year on average.

However, those who work in Ohio make about $35,000 a year.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

Working as a Phlebotomist is a great start in the medical field, and it will continue to grow for many years.

In fact, this career’s growth outlook is much higher than many other careers.

Phlebotomists should expect a 17 percent growth in career opportunities over the next decade.

Having certifications and education as a Phlebotomist will provide more opportunities for people who are interested in this career.

Working in large hospitals or highly populated areas will likely provide more job opportunities as well.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 0-1 Year

The time that it takes to become a Phlebotomist depends on the type of program that you enter.

Some programs can take about a year to finish, while others can take just weeks.

Be wary of programs that are very short, as they may not provide enough hands-on experience and education to garner proper knowledge in the field.

Those who want a lot of education and experience as a Phlebotomist may choose to earn an Associates degree, this takes about two years to finish.

It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 years to become a Phlebotomist.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Taking blood and inserting needles into patients’ arms isn’t the right fit for everyone, so you must be sure you are the right type of person to work as a Phlebotomist.

In order to get the most out of your career, make sure you have the following characteristics:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Ability to multitask
  • Ability to work in teams or by yourself
  • Compassion for others
  • Empathy
  • Steady nerves
  • Patience
  • Customer service skills
  • Communication skills
  • Sense of urgency
  • Good bedside manner


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a Phlebotomist make?

On average, a Phlebotomist in the United States will make about $36,000 a year.

That is true for Phlebotomists with at least one year of education and certification.

For those just starting out in this career, the salary will look closer to $29,000 to begin.

After many years of experience, it’s possible to earn over $49,000 a year in some areas as a Phlebotomist.

Working in large hospitals and labs will likely provide higher salaries overworking in small clinics or private practices.

Q. How long does it take to become a Phlebotomist?

That really depends on the education program you decide to enroll in.

Some Phlebotomist programs can take as little as 6 weeks, but they give out very little information.

Other Phlebotomist certificate programs can take about a year to finish.

If you want to earn an Associate’s degree, that will take about 2 years to complete.

The style of program you choose is completely up to you, but just remember that it is important to do clinical and lab work.

Q. What does a Phlebotomist do?

A Phlebotomist may have an interesting name, but the job is pretty straight forward.

Those who work as Phlebotomists use needles to take blood samples from patients.

Other activities that a Phlebotomist might be involved in include setting IVs, doing blood transfusions, and working at blood drives.

Some Phlebotomists work in hospitals taking care of patients, while others work in private practices or labs doing work with blood samples.

There are many facets to working as a Phlebotomist, and there are many opportunities to be gained from this career.

Q. What is the demand for Phlebotomists?

Since there are so many ways that blood samples can be used in the medical field, it seems that there will always be a need for Phlebotomists.

These specialized individuals can access the perfect sample for DNA tests, illness and disease testing, transfusions, blood banking, and much more.

In fact, over the next decade, this career will grow about 17 percent, which is much higher than most other careers in the medical field.

Those who have certification and higher education in phlebotomy will typically find more career opportunities.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Phlebotomist?

There are many different types of programs you can enter to become a Phlebotomist.

Some shorter programs cost anywhere from $600 to $1,200 and take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to finish.

A year-long program will cost about $2,500 and will require an internship and lab work.

If you want to earn an Associate’s degree, you can expect to pay close to $10,000 to graduate.

Whether you earn a certificate or an Associate’s degree is up to you, but the cost can be very different.

It can range anywhere from $600 to $10,000 to become a Phlebotomist.


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