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Medical lab technicians (MLTs) work in a laboratory setting, assisting in the analysis of biomedical samples. The results of their work are provided to physicians and other healthcare practitioners to help diagnose and treat patients.
Due to the technical nature of the work, medical lab technicians must be diligent, and precise, possessing a specialized skill set developed through rigorous coursework and hands-on training. The work of MLTs is not patient-facing, so by and large, the MLT role is suited to those who are attentive and who enjoy the routine nature of lab work without much, or any, patient interaction.
Those who make the time and effort to become medical lab technicians find their work rewarding and financially lucrative. While medical lab technicians may not earn as much as doctors or nurses, they are still compensated well for their work.
Furthermore, the demand for MLTs is relatively high, and the field is projected to grow steadily in the coming years. Indeed, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, a similar occupational title, will grow by 11 percent between 2020 and 2030 (BLS 2021). This occupational growth rate is faster than the national average for all occupations (8 percent) and will create an estimated 36,500 jobs in the same decade.
Having MLT training and skills means aspiring medical lab technicians should be well-prepared to navigate job offer negotiations with comparative data and realistic expectations. Compensation for MLT positions depends on several factors, including experience, certification, and location of employment. Here is a reference guide of MLT salary breakdowns by percentiles, regions, experience, and workplace to help determine earning prospects. These are all of the latest figures available as of June 2022.
Medical Lab Tech (MLT) Salary Overall
Data from the BLS shows that clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, a similar occupational title for MLTs, earn about the same average annual salary for all occupations nationwide. The average annual salary for medical and clinical laboratory technologists is $56,910 (BLS May 2021), compared to the national average for all occupations at $58,260 (BLS May 2021). The data for MLTs is broken down into the following percentiles:
|Number of professionals employed||318,780|
|Annual mean wage||$56,910|
|50th percentile (median)||$57,800|
Here, it is helpful to note that two separate sources report different numbers in terms of the average salary earned by medical lab technicians.
The BLS shows the average salary is $56,910, with 318,780 MTLs employed nationwide. In contrast, PayScale, a self-reported aggregate of salary data, asserts the annual average wage for MLTs is $43,801 per year based on 2,847 individuals reporting (PayScale June 2022).
While there’s a vast difference of $13,109 between these two figures, it can be asserted that the BLS data shows a more accurate portrayal of all MLTs employed nationwide since PayScale’s reporting figures represents only 1 percent of the total number of MLTs at 2,847 compared to the 318,780 total employed MLTs as reported by the BLS.
Medical Lab Tech (MLT) Salary by State – Top-Paying Regions
As is the case with many other careers, the salary for medical lab technicians will vary significantly depending on location. Several factors will affect the level of compensation a medical lab technician will receive, including local MLT supply, demand, and cost of living.
Here are the states with the highest average annual MLT salaries (BLS May 2021):
|State||Employment||Annual mean wage|
While the salaries above may seem higher than average, they don’t factor in the state’s cost of living. While at first glance it may seem that medical lab technician employment would allow for a much higher living standard in these states, it is essential to factor in how much it costs to live in a particular region.
The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) keeps track of such data. It shows the five top-paying states for MLTs are also positioned in the top 10 most expensive states to live in the United States (MERIC 2022). The cost of living is an essential factor to consider when entertaining job offers from different regional areas. MLTs negotiating salary offers are advised to research the cost of living data before accepting a position.
For illustration, here’s a list of five states with the highest concentration of jobs for MLTs (BLS May 2021)—four of which are on the list of the top 30 most affordable states to live (MERIC 2022):
|State||Employment||Annual mean wage|
Aspiring medical lab technicians should be aware of the likelihood of finding employment in a particular state. For example, while MLTs in Rhode Island may command the second-highest average salary out of all 50 states at $70,580, job opportunities are scarce; specifically, there are only 900 throughout the state.
By comparison, MLT positions in Alabama earn $10,740 less than the average annual salaries, job opportunities are more plentiful; in this state, there are 6,170 positions. (BLS May 2021).
Medical Lab Tech (MLT) Salary by Metropolitan Area – Top-Paying Regions
High salaries can be concentrated in metropolitan areas with higher costs of living at a more granular level, depending on the population and demand for MLTs in a specific area.
Here are the top-paying metropolitan areas for medical laboratory technicians (BLS May 2021):
|City/Metropolitan area||Employment||Annual mean wage|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||1,370||$77,150|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||4,380||$76,330|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||18,400||$72,930|
|Norwich-New London-Westerly, CT-RI||220||$72,870|
Medical Lab Tech (MLT) Salary by Experience
Another factor that significantly affects the amount earned by a medical lab technician is work experience or the number of years in which an individual has been active in the profession.
Consider, for example, statistics offered by PayScale (April 2022), which show the average amount an individual may expect to earn based on years of experience:
|National average salary (according to PayScale)||$43,801|
|Entry-level salary (less than one year)||$40,274|
|Early career salary (1-4 years)||$41,058|
|Mid-career salary (5-9 years)||$43,262|
|Late career salary (10-19 years)||$47,521|
|Experienced salary (20 or more years)||$55,466|
Here, the statistics show that an individual who works in medical lab technology for the duration of their career can earn more than when they first began. Furthermore, the statistics above only account for the national average; thus, those who start at a higher salary (and perform well) might reasonably expect to earn a proportionally higher amount as they gain experience and advance.
Medical Lab Tech (MLT) Salary by Industry
One last factor that affects the amount of compensation received by medical lab technicians is the type of industry or setting in which they work. To be sure, not all medical lab technicians work in the same environment; and in fact, the job setting can have a substantial effect on the expected salary.
Take, for example, data provided by the BLS that shows the top-paying industries for MLTs (BLS May 2021):
|Industry||Annual mean wage|
|Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers||$101,080|
|Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods||$78,290|
|Computer Systems Design and Related Services||$73,520|
|Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing||$72,690|
|Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services||$68,430|
The data listed above shows that medical laboratory technicians who work in wholesale markets will likely earn, on average, a significant amount more than those who work in management, scientific, and technical consulting services. It should also be noted that medical laboratory technicians who work in these more specialized industries, such as in dental offices, may also require additional certifications or specializations.
In fact, an MLT who works in a dental office may need to study to become a dental lab technician, which is a related but different occupation. While both are lab-based roles without much patient interaction, medical lab technicians run tests and analyze results, while dental lab technicians focus more on preparing customized orthodontia. For more information on related MLT careers in dentistry, please see our complete guide to dental careers.
Ultimately, working as a medical lab technician often comes with better than average financial compensation than the national average for all occupations. MLTs can enjoy lucrative salaries in all 50 states with years of experience in one or several industries.
Rachel Drummond Writer
Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).
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