How to Become a Phlebotomist
Phlebotomists draw blood for medical tests, but they are also medical professionals who can do more than most to put patients at ease about their care with thoughtful actions and demonstrated skill. There are lots of good jobs available for phlebotomists and opportunities are growing for phlebotomy technicians who are properly prepared.
There are two basic routes to becoming a phlebotomist. Those who do not have previous experience in any medical field can take classes, including actual venipunctures (drawing blood from a vein) and skin punctures (doing procedures that penetrate the skin) under supervision. They can then take a test to get certified. The whole process takes just four to eight months in most cases. Those who have been certified for other medical professions such as nursing can be certified as phlebotomists after training and passing an exam.
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What Are the Educational Requirements for a Phlebotomist?
Every phlebotomist needs to have graduated from high school or to have earned a G.E.D. In addition to general education, future phlebotomists who have not been working in a related medical field learn their profession in an eight- to twelve-week training program offered by a community college or a med tech training school. You can also learn phlebotomy in the military, or in a hospital-approved training program.
For example, Austin Community College offers a Phlebotomy Technician certificate program that takes just one semester to complete.
Any Certification or Credentials Needed?
Phlebotomy techs enter the field from many backgrounds, and certification requirements are flexible for applicants who can demonstrate the knowledge and skills to do the job. In the United States, there are seven certifying agencies that are recognized for employment all over the country.
Most phlebotomists are certified by one of these seven certifying agencies:
- American Certification Agency (ACA) - To earn the ACA's CPT designation, you will need to have a year of experience in phlebotomy experience (usually in the military or in a foreign country) or completion of a phlebotomy training program or certification from a hospital or lab, and you will need to pass a test.
- American Medical Technologists (AMT) - To receive their Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT) designation, you will need either to have completed a training program with at least 120 hours in the classroom or you will need to have done at least 1,040 hours of phlebotomy work at an approved facility over the last three years. You will also need to have done at least 50 venipunctures and 10 skin punctures on people.
- American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) - The American Society for Clinical Pathology is the largest professional organization for laboratory professionals in the world, and they offer the greatest number of routes to getting their Phlebotomy Technician (PBT) certification. You can qualify to take their certification test if you have completed any of seven different combinations of training and practical experience. The ASCP offers phlebotomist certification for nurses and for lab techs in addition to traditional routes to phlebotomy certification.
- American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) - To get their CBT, you need six months of full-time experience or a year of part-time experience certified by your supervisor at work. You also need to complete a phlebotomy training program with at least five skin punctures and 75 venipunctures.
- National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) - If you have completed phlebotomy technician training in the U.S. military in the last five years, you may qualify for a National Certified Phlebotomy Technician (NCPT) designation upon paying a $135 application fee.
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA) - The NHA is a certifying agency for people who already do phlebotomy as part of their work in a medical profession. Their Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) designation is available to people with at least one year of doing phlebotomy as part of other job duties. You must have done at least 30 venipunctures and 10 capillary sticks.
- National Phlebotomy Association (NPA) - This program requires you to be a high school graduate or the holder of a G.E.D., to pass a drug and alcohol test, and to have an interview with the founder. Their certification is highly respected all over the United States.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary for phlebotomists in the United States was $35,510 per year (that's $17.07 per hour) in 2019 (latest available data). Half of the phlebotomists earned more than $35,510 in 2019, and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,000, and the highest 10 percent earned over $49,750.
Phlebotomy is a profession that has a growing number of jobs. The BLS projects that the need for phlebotomists will grow by 17 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is considered much faster than average.
Few professionals involved in direct patient care are appreciated more than a skilled phlebotomist. With the right training and phlebotomist certification, you can find a job doing vital work that is needed everywhere.
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This tool will allow you to easily search and compare the average salaries of nurses for many cities and locations across the U.S. You can search by city and state. Salary data is provided through the BLS.
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Phlebotomist Salary Table
|Location||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|District of Columbia||-||$41,300|
Table data taken from 2018 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319097.htm)
Medical assistants perform a variety of both clinical and administrative tasks in the healthcare setting. They perform direct patient care to include taking vital signs, administering immunizations, simple wound care, and applying orthopedic supplies. They also manage tasks such as billing, scheduling appointments, ordering and managing supplies, and handling telephone calls.
Phlebotomists, on the other hand, are responsible for collecting blood samples from patients. This includes venipuncture, finger pricks, or heel sticks for infants. They work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. They must ensure the method of collection is appropriate for the type of testing ordered and must ensure the blood samples are kept intact until processing.
While medical assistants and phlebotomists are technically two different careers, a medical assistant can also become a phlebotomist and vice versa, as long as they have completed the required training. Medical assistant training is typically longer than phlebotomy training. It’s beneficial to have both certifications as it can make an applicant more desirable to have additional skills. Additionally, it is a better patient care experience to have one staff member perform the necessary patient care tasks at one time, rather than send patients to different places.