Cytotechnology is the microscopic study of cells for evidence of disease, such as cancer. The search for abnormal cells or for damaged cells can reveal many medical problems, including viral and bacterial infections as well as cancer. The best known cytology exam among consumers is the Pap test, an evaluation of cells taken from the cervix that is recommended for women on a periodic basis.
The value of cytology technology extends to other portions of the body, as microscopic cell exams can identify cancerous or precancerous cells taken from almost any portion of the body. Cytotechnologists may evaluate cells that have been scraped from tissue or removed with a fine needle, or simply sloughed off by normal means. They are trained to notice subtle differences in cells as well as changes in cells that remain under scrutiny.
Most laboratory technologists hold a bachelor's degree in one of the life sciences. Some cytotechnologists will engage in an additional year's training for the specialty. Many schools also offer degrees in medical technology, that cover many of the technical aspects of laboratory examination techniques, biology, computer science and the other basics needed to manage a complex examination of a cellular specimen. Some states require licensure for medical laboratory technologists in general.
There were 319,000 medical technologists employed in 2006, according to the Department of Labor. A relatively small segment of this professional population specialized in cytotechnology.
Rapid growth is expected in the field of medical technology. Lab technologists of all specialties will be in increasing demand, and the need for new professionals is expected to expand about 14% over the next several years throughout the field. The area of cellular research is expected to expand dramatically, as research continues to reveal the complexities of malignant cells and the varying methods that can be used to combat them. Cytotechnologists are vital to research and patient treatment in this area.
10th Percentile $36,180
Median Salary $53,500
90th Percentile $74,680
Note: These figures are averages for all medical technologists. Cytotechnologists are the top earners in the group, base
Source: U.S. Department of Labor