A cytotechnologist (CT) is a laboratory specialist who
is responsible for examining human cell samples under the microscope for early
signs of cancer and other diseases. The cytotechnologist analyzes subtle cell
changes-both nuclear and cytoplasmic-and compares these changes to normal cell
findings for the body site. While screening Pap smears constitutes a vital role,
cytotechnologists work collaboratively with pathologists to diagnose benign and
cancerous disorders from sites such as liver, lung, thyroid, breast, lymph
nodes, bladder, kidney, as well as other organs, tissues, and body fluids.
must be familiar with normal anatomy and histology for
all the body systems and must be familiar with the disease processes that can
affect these body sites. By comparing these facts with clinical history provided
for the patient, the cytotechnologist can judge the significance of the cell
findings observed. The cytotechnologist can issue the final report for certain
specimens that are normal; when abnormal cells are present, the cytotechnologist
works with the pathologist to arrive at a final diagnosis.
Cytotechnologists work independently with little supervision. They
must be patient, precise, and have relatively good eyesight. Above all, the
cytotechnologist must enjoy making decisions and taking responsibility, because
their correct analysis of microscopic cellular changes can directly affect a
patient's course of treatment and may save the patient's life by early detection
To prepare for a career as a cytotechnologist, you should get a
solid foundation in high school sciences - biology, chemistry, math and computer
science. When you choose the cytotechnology option, you’ll complete the core
course work and then focus on specific techniques used in the clinical setting
during the practicum experience. Preparing for a career as a cytotechnologist is
a good investment in your future. You education in cytotechnology will prepare
you directly for a job. While you're in school, you may be able to work part
time in a laboratory to earn extra money. And you could start working full time
the day after you graduate.
To be sure that laboratory workers are competent and able to perform high
quality laboratory tests, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
Board of Registry gives a national certification exam. Students take this exam
after meeting their academic and laboratory education requirements. Those who
pass the exam may use the initials CT(ASCP) after their names to show they are
proficient in their field. Certification is valid for three years. To
demonstrate competency throughout their careers after their initial
certification, cytotechnologists must complete a Certification Maintenance
Program every three years.
Today, there are more jobs for cytotechnologists than educated people to
fill those jobs. The future long-term employment looks bright. The need is great
everywhere throughout the country. Hospitals, for-profit laboratories, clinics,
public health facilities, and industry currently have positions open for
According to the ASCP Wage and Vacancy Survey, the average annual salary for cytotechnologists in the United States ranged from $64,416 for staff to $82,556 for managers in 2013.
Do you have what it takes?
All cytotechnologists have certain common characteristics. They are problem
solvers. They like challenge and responsibility. They are accurate, reliable,
work well under pressure and are able to finish a task once started. They
communicate well, both in writing and speaking. They set high standards for
themselves and expect quality in the work they do. Above all, they are deeply
committed to their profession, and are truly fascinated by all that science has
to offer. For someone who chooses a career as a cytotechnologist, the
exploration never ends.