Cytotechnology is an allied health specialty that offers exciting possibilities for those interested in a career in science and a significant role in health care. Simply put, cytotechnologists are “cell detectives.” As a cytotechnologist, you’ll play a crucial part in the discovery and detection of cancer and pre-cancerous changes in cells using a microscope. Cytotechnology is a challenging and rewarding profession for those who thrive working independently as well as part of a team.
What does a Cytotechnologist do?
Through the use of a microscope, cytotechnologists examine and study human cells. Cytotechnologists are typically employed in hospitals and private medical laboratories, university medical centers and government facilities, as well as industry settings.
Breast Cancer Cells
Cytotechnologists are trained to look for abnormalities such as cancerous cells, pre-cancerous cells or infectious disease. Most notably, cytotechnologists are responsible for the interpretation of the Pap test — a test of cervical cells that checks for changes in these cells that may lead to a diagnosis of cervical cancer, abnormal cervical cells or an infection.
“In the United States and Puerto Rico, cytotechnology training programs are offered at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate (certificate) levels and are located in both university and hospital/laboratory settings. Students may be admitted to a cytotechnology program in their junior or senior year of college or after they have completed their undergraduate studies. Specific course requirements vary somewhat among schools; however, 28 credits of sciences including chemistry and the biological sciences upon completion of a cytotechnology program and three of mathematics, statistics or equivalent are recommended.
At this time there are 29 active training programs. In October 2013, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) approved the Standards and Guidelines for the Accreditation of Educational Programs in Cytotechnology, which include the Curriculum in Cytotechnology for Entry-level Competencies (ELC) proposed by the Cytotechnology Programs Review Committee (CPRC). The new ELC put the curriculum on a modern footing to cover evolving areas of molecular medicine and digital pathology. The CPRC has collected resources to meet the new requirements; these are available on the Cytology Education Learning Lab (CELL) Web site http://cytologyedlab.org/.
Upon completion of a cytotechnology program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), in collaboration with the Cytotechnology Programs Review Committee (CPRC) , students are eligible to sit for a national certification examination given by the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s Board of Certification (ASCP-BOC). Successful completion of this examination indicates attainment of entry level proficiency in the field, and individuals are then recognized as CT(ASCP) – certified cytotechnologists. Additional certifications -specialist in cytotechnology (SCT) and molecular biology (MB) can be obtained.
At this time, the American Society of Cytopathology (ASC) and other co-sponsors of the CPRC are actively exploring future practice models for cytotechnologists /laboratorians with core skills in cytotechnology.
Details of the current guidelines are available on the ASC and CAAHEP Web sites: http://www.cytopathology.org/cytotechnology-programs/ and http://www.caahep.org/documents/file/For-Program-Directors/Cytotechnology%20Standards%202013.pdf”
Hospitals, private laboratories, universities, government facilities and industries employ cytotechnologists. Among these practice settings, there may be supervisory, educational and administrative level positions available to cytotechnologists, with opportunities possibly requiring additional experience or education.
What is the average salary for a cytotechnologist?
The median U.S. cytotechnologist salary range is between $58,283 and $68,795 annually.
Source: Salary.com, August 2010.
Where can I find accredited cytotechnology programs?
There are currently 33 accredited cytotechnology programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. Click here to view a list of the accredited programs.
What groups or associations are available for cytotechnologists?
The American Society of Cytopathology offers free membership to students currently enrolled in an accredited cytotechnology program. Other groups include the American Society for Cytotechnology and the American Society for Clinical Pathology as well as several state, regional and international associations.
- Accredited Cytotechnology Programs
- American Society of Cytopathology
- American Society for Cytotechnology
- American Society for Clinical Pathology
For more information on Choosing a Career in Cytotechnology, contact the ASC National Office:
Phone: (302) 543-6583