The medical field is made up of many exciting careers requiring a range of skills and varying degrees of patient interaction. Phlebotomy is an essential area of medicine that requires scientific know-how, technical aptitude and good interpersonal skills.
In this article, we define phlebotomy, explain what it takes to become a phlebotomist, how long it takes and how much it costs to become a phlebotomist and discuss job prospects and salary expectations for phlebotomists.
What is a phlebotomist?
A phlebotomist is an entry-level medical professional whose primary job it is to draw blood samples from patients for testing. Phlebotomists work in testing laboratories, private medical practices, assisted living facilities, public and private hospital systems and other clinical settings. In addition to drawing blood, phlebotomists regularly perform these functions:
- Explaining blood draw procedures to patients
- Comforting nervous or anxious patients
- Assisting patients who have adverse reactions to blood draws
- Protecting the integrity of paperwork trails
- Managing the chain of possession of samples
- Labeling samples properly
- Performing transfusions
- Collaborating with doctors, nurses, other medical technicians and patient management staff
How long does it take to become a phlebotomist?
Depending on the school and training program you choose and which certifications you apply for, becoming a phlebotomist will take anywhere from four months to a year and a half. Expect to spend three months to a year studying and doing practicum training hours and an additional 20-40 hours of coursework for certification.
In general, about two-thirds of your phlebotomy training is in the classroom and one third is spent in practical training through internships and externships. Your phlebotomy training will include anatomy, physiology, medical terminology and hands-on training.
What types of skills do you need to be a phlebotomist?
In addition to technical training, phlebotomy technicians use these skills in the workplace:
- Attention to detail: Phlebotomists need to pay attention to sample amounts, sample labeling, sample tracking and data input.
- Organization: Phlebotomists are responsible for maintaining a sterile and organized workplace.
- Hand-eye coordination: Phlebotomists must have steady hands and good coordination to perform smooth blood draws and minimize patient discomfort.
- Soft skills: Successful phlebotomist use interpersonal skills like empathy, verbal and nonverbal communication and patience to provide good patient experiences.
Read more: Soft Skills In the Workplace
How much does it cost to become a phlebotomist?
Costs associated with becoming a phlebotomist vary from school to school and state to state. Accredited online training programs may cost as little as $300 or as much as $700-$800. In-person classroom phlebotomy training costs anywhere from about $700 to $1,400 or more.
Some employers, such as hospitals and the Red Cross, offer training to their employees at little or no cost. Initial phlebotomy certification ranges from about $80 to $150, with certification renewal charges varying. There will also be textbooks and other training materials to buy, so remember to include those costs when you are budgeting for your phlebotomy education.
Steps to become a phlebotomist
Follow these steps to become a phlebotomist:
1. Graduate high school or get a GED
Phlebotomists must have at minimum a high school diploma or GED certificate and be at least 18 years old. A high school diploma generally takes four years of study. Most people preparing to take a GED exam prepare for about three months.
2. Complete a phlebotomy training program
Research and choose the phlebotomy training program that suits your budget and schedule, enroll and successfully complete all coursework and practical training. You may choose a certificate, diploma or Associate Degree program in Phlebotomy from many different schools and hospitals. Phlebotomy training courses range from about four months to a year.
3. Get certified by a recognized body
Once your training is complete, you can seek certification from a nationally recognized certification organization like the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), the National Phlebotomy Association (NPA), the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), the American Medical Technologists (AMT) or the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT).
Becoming certified increases your opportunities for being hired, shows your commitment to your field and connects you to a network of other professionals who can assist you in your new career. The time it takes to become certified varies. Once you have studied for, taken and successfully passed the certification examination, you should receive your official certification in about two weeks.
4. Apply for positions and get a job
After completing your coursework and practical training and in possession of professional certification, you are now ready to enter the profession. To search for a position, take advantage of employment resources your school offers, online job search sites, your personal and school networks and professional organizations and certifying bodies to locate the position you want. There is no average for how long it takes to get hired.
Read more: How Long Does It Take To Find a Job?
5. Stay current as your industry changes
While working as a phlebotomist, continue to read about advancements in the field, network with other medical professionals, join professional organizations and keep your certifications up to date. As in any profession, this step is ongoing.
Phlebotomist salaries and career outlook
The average salary for phlebotomists is $12.88 per hour. Ten-year projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a 25% increase in phlebotomist positions through 2026, with good hiring prospects for phlebotomists with certifications from recognized professional associations.
Top-paying U.S. cities for phlebotomists
According to Indeed Salaries, the top-paying U.S. cities for phlebotomists are:
- Columbus, Ohio
- Charlotte, N.C.
- Dallas, Texas
- Houston, Texas
- Las Vegas, Nev.
- Chicago, Ill.
- Phoenix, Ariz.
- Atlanta, Ga.
Top-paying U.S. states for phlebotomists
Based on nationally averaged salary figures, the top-paying U.S. states for phlebotomists are:
- New Mexico
- Wisconsin and Colorado (tie)