Phlebotomy is an important part of the healthcare system, and those hired in this field work in-demand, entry-level jobs.
The job of a phlebotomist is to draw blood for diagnostic purposes, donations, or other tests.
No matter where they work if they hold a post-secondary degree and certification, they have access to many rewarding and lucrative job opportunities.
In 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted this profession will grow by 17% between 2019 and 2029, whereas most other occupations see a growth of around 4%.
People are expected to see 22,800 fresh new positions in this field.
Across the nation, at the time we write this guide, phlebotomists earn on average $35,000 per year, though this number is expected to change.
Facilities hiring uncertified personnel for this field are few and rare in-between, even if the candidates possess some experience and knowledge of the occupation.
Certification proves competency and helps individuals earn higher salaries in this growing field.
Those who want to become certified phlebotomists are expected to:
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Join training programs that generally last for less than 1 year
- Pass an exam
If you want to become a phlebotomist, you need to join a program with accreditation from the National Accreditation Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
These programs have 4 components:
- 2 courses
- Clinical practice
The best programs are held at the post-secondary level.
Individuals also need to know there are a few other ways to start a phlebotomy career, that we’ll present later.
National Certification – PBT (ASCP) Exam
The exam to earn the certification in phlebotomy is available to those who complete their training.
The certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) is recognized internationally.
Those who can take the exam need to register for it online, by first creating an account with ASCP.
The registration process involves providing some documents as well, such as official transcripts from the school among others.
Candidates also have to pay the non-refundable exam application fee of $135.
Those who don’t submit all the required papers will receive emails informing them of the missing ones.
This exam has 80 questions for which you have 2 hours to answer.
You’ll take this exam on a computer and the difficulty of the next question depends on how you answered the previous one.
Candidates cannot skip questions and their weight depends on their difficulty level.
These are the main subjects found on the exam:
- Circulatory systems: 5-10%
- Specimen collection (venipuncture, skin puncture): 45-50%
- Specimen handling, transport, and processing: 15-20%
- Waived and point-of-care testing (POCT): 5-10%
Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) Certification Eligibility – Other Pathways
Individuals have 7 different ways of becoming eligible for a PBT certification.
The requirements vary, but individuals generally need the following:
- High school diploma or GED
- CPR certification
- Up-to-date immunizations
- Successful completion of a phlebotomy program
- Supervised clinical experience
- Letter or diploma of course completion
The supervised clinical experience involves performing a certain number of venipunctures or clinical hours, however, these vary between the agencies.
The ASCP accepts candidates who completed one of the following routes:
- Completing a NAACLS-approved phlebotomy program in the previous 5 years
- Completing an acceptable 2-part formal structured phlebotomy program in the previous 5 years
- This means 40 hours of classroom training, 100 hours of clinical training, and a minimum of 100 venipunctures.
- Completing 1 year of full-time, acceptable clinical experience as a phlebotomy technician in a laboratory in the previous 5 years
- Full time means 35 hours per week.
- Completing an acceptable accredited allied health professional training program that has phlebotomy training with orientation in an acceptable laboratory
- Candidates need a minimum performance of 100 successful unaided blood collections through venipunctures and skin punctures.
- Having valid certification as a medical laboratory technologist, such as MT/MLS (ASCP) or MLT (ASCP)
- Having valid certification as a donor phlebotomy technician DPT (ASCP), a minimum of 100 successful unaided non-donor blood collections, in an acceptable laboratory, in the previous 5 years
- This includes venipunctures and skin punctures.
- Completing a phlebotomy program approved by the California Department of Public Health in the previous 5 years.
A high school diploma or GED is required for all of the above eligibility pathways.
Candidates can use the Board of Certification (BOC) Eligibility Assistant test to see if they can sit through the certification exam.
Phlebotomy Technician ASCP Certification Renewal
Those earning the PBT certification will have to renew it every 3 years.
The ASCP put together the Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) to help individuals pursue and keep track of their professional development.
Phlebotomists will always know the latest trends and developments in the field of phlebotomy through the content of this program.
The renewal of the certification happens after the professional complete some courses in the following topics:
- Laboratory or patient safety (i.e. quality control, quality assurance)
- Areas of lab specialty, management, education, or other related laboratory areas of interest
Certification renewal also involves paying the associated fee of $95.
The fee can be reduced by $15 for those who have more certifications in the medical field.
State Certification for Phlebotomy Technicians
The majority of facilities hiring phlebotomists prefer their staff to be certified.
The certification can be from any accredited organization in the United States.
One example is the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP).
According to a study by O*NET, in 2019 about 45% of phlebotomists had post-secondary certificates and 32% had only a high school diploma.
Despite all these aspects, there are only 4 states that legally mandate these professionals to be licensed.
The states are California, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington.
California has the highest number of phlebotomists.
All personnel who draws blood must hold certification for this field unless they have another credential, as is the case with physicians, nurses, clinical lab scientists, and other licensed professionals.
California accepts the phlebotomy certifications from these agencies:
- American Certification Agency (ACA)
- American Medical Certification Association (AMCA)
- American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP)
- National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT/MMCI)
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
In this state, phlebotomists are considered clinical laboratory personnel and this is why they must be certified.
In Nevada, not only the individual phlebotomist must hold certification, but the office providing this procedure as well.
The website of the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) has applications for these 2 types of credentials.
In Washington, this procedure is considered invasive, and this is why a medical assistant certification is needed.
Each state has its own set of requirements when it comes to the process of becoming certified.
The same can be said about each agency issuing acceptable diplomas.
These aspects are seen in:
- The specific number of venipunctures the individuals must complete
- The supervised clinical hours that the individuals must complete
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