Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Jennifer Nicoloro Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Lowell
In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we'll see in the job market given the pandemic?
Jennifer Nicoloro Ph.D.: I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed much-needed light on the medical laboratory science profession. Medical laboratory scientists (MLS) are an integral part of the healthcare team. These highly skilled laboratory professionals work behind the scenes to assist physicians and other healthcare providers by performing laboratory testing that aids in the diagnosis and monitoring of health and disease. It's estimated that more than 70% of medical decisions made by physicians are based on interpretation of lab results provided by MLS.
MLS are responsible for performing tests across multiple areas of laboratory medicine, including clinical chemistry, coagulation, hematology, immunology, immunohematology, microbiology, molecular diagnostics, toxicology, and urinalysis. Laboratory testing is detailed and can be incredibly complex depending on the methodology, which can employ manual, semi-automated, and completely automated techniques. But the critical part of the MLS skill set goes well beyond simply performing the testing or operating the laboratory analyzers. These professionals are responsible for understanding the pre-analytical requirements for each test - what type of specimen is required, how is the specimen collected and subsequently transported to the laboratory, along with maintaining, calibrating, and validating laboratory instrumentation to ensure test results are accurate.
Certified MLS are needed now more than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic demands more qualified individuals to perform laboratory testing. The profession has faced personnel shortages for years and according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the overall employment rate "is projected to grow 7% from 2019-2029, faster than the average for all occupations" www.bls.gov.
In my immediate area, Boston MA, we are seeing large sign-on bonuses, some upwards $10k, to recruit qualified MLS.
What certifications/licenses/courses can have the biggest impact on your job prospects?
Jennifer Nicoloro Ph.D.: A degree in Medical Laboratory Science requires a minimum of 4 years of college. The most direct route to an MLS career is through a NAACLS accredited program. While the organization of each MLS program varies, all students undergo rigorous schooling and technical training.
Many MLS programs combine on-campus coursework with off-campus clinical experiences. Degree coursework provides foundational knowledge in normal and abnormal human physiology, major laboratory disciplines, and discipline-specific laboratory techniques. Clinical practicums provide real-world hands-on training on how to safely and accurately perform highly complex laboratory tests utilizing sophisticated methodology and instrumentation alongside certified professionals.
A majority of MLS have a certification and/or license to practice in the clinical laboratory setting. Certifications are offered through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) or American Medical Technologists (AMT) with licensure dependent on state practicing requirements. Certification and/or licensure if required by most clinical laboratories. The certification provides optimum salary and opportunities for career advancement.
What's a good job out of college and why?
Jennifer Nicoloro Ph.D.: I want to emphasize job security with a career in MLS. Most MLS graduates are juggling multiple job offers from diagnostic clinical laboratories, which include laboratories within hospitals as well as reference laboratories. Working in a diagnostic laboratory as a MLS upon graduation is typically recommended, though, this is an incredibly versatile degree pathway. MLS also work in other areas, such as diagnostic and biotech industries, veterinary clinics, public health, forensic science, and research.