What They Do:
Phlebotomists collect blood for donation or testing so the blood can be analyzed in a clinical laboratory. These blood tests are used to diagnose illness, evaluate the effectiveness of medications and to determine whether a patient is receiving proper nutrition.
In addition to knowing how to properly collect blood, a phlebotomist must also ensure that all equipment is properly sanitized before used to collect blood, label all blood samples correctly, and properly store and transport all blood samples.
Helpful skills include:
Phlebotomists must be extremely accurate and careful. In a busy facility, they may take dozens of blood samples during a typical shift. They must be able to work under pressure without sacrificing accuracy or safety.
Many patients are afraid of needles, so the first job of the phlebotomist is to put the patient at ease. Phlebotomists must be able to handle difficult, emotional and even angry patients.
Fine motor skills are needed to successfully insert a needle into a vein. Phlebotomists also must be well-organized, with extremely good attention to detail.
Phlebotomists are generally supervised by a clinical laboratory technologist or other medical professional.
A two- or four-year degree is not required to practice phlebotomy. Typically, phlebotomists can start their careers after four months to a year of education. However, before you pick up your first vacuum tube, you should consider where you want to end up. Certain degree programs will offer you more opportunities for advancement than others.
There are three degree levels an aspiring phlebotomist can choose from:
Phlebotomy certificate: 6 months – 1 year
Associate Degree: 1-2 years
Bachelor’s Degree: 3-4 years
If you're looking to enter the phlebotomy field as quickly as possible, you should focus entirely on the physiology, equipment, technique, procedure, and terminology of the profession. A certificate program will focus on these aspects exclusively. Such a program will mix lecture and lab time in order to provide a brief academic experience that segues into a clinical rotation meant to provide practical experience.
Associate degree programs offer you the opportunity to expand your general education as well as your phlebotomy skills. If you want to have greater flexibility after graduating, you should consider this option as a way to prepare for eventual positions as a medical assistant or laboratory technician.
At the bachelor's degree level, a phlebotomist is preparing for a supervisory role in the phlebotomy field, or even an eventual position as a medical technologist.
Keep in mind that individual states, hospitals and practices all have different standards in terms of what is sufficient training to work as a phlebotomist. You can check USA.gov to check the qualifications in your state.
What They Make:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median income was $35,510 per year.
Where They Work:
Community health centers
Blood donation centers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of phlebotomists is projected to grow 17% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers, and other locations will need phlebotomists to perform bloodwork.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Phlebotomists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/phlebotomists.htm (visited February 2021).
Updated February 2021