This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach
If you are interested in pursuing a career in the medical field that enables you to help many people at once, becoming a phlebotomist may be worth exploring. Phlebotomists, or phlebotomy technicians, typically collect blood samples from individuals for medical or insurance reasons. The role of a phlebotomist in collecting quality samples is important in the diagnosis, treatment, care and health of individuals. In this article, we explore the roles and responsibilities of a phlebotomist and how to become one.
What does a phlebotomist do?
Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, perform blood transfusions, conduct research and run or assist with blood donations. Phlebotomy technicians are individuals who gravitate toward challenge, responsibility and compassion. They are often needed to explain to patients the rationale behind the tests being performed and can serve as a source of comfort for concerned patients. They must also be accurate and meticulous in their work, perform well under pressure and communicate effectively with an array of individuals.
Typically, phlebotomists are responsible for:
- Drawing blood and bandaging after blood is drawn
- Measuring and recording blood pressure, temperature, pulse and oxygen levels
- Maintaining patient records
- Cleaning, preparing and sterilizing equipment
- Sending blood, urine and fecal samples to the lab for testing
Average phlebotomist salary
A phlebotomist's average salary is $14.91 per hour, but this figure can vary depending on certain factors such as need, specific job responsibilities, training, education and experience level. A phlebotomist's location may also influence their salary.
Related: 12 Healthcare Jobs That Pay Well
How to become a phlebotomist
Phlebotomists are required to have a basic understanding of verbal and written communication and a grasp of basic math skills. Although many phlebotomists do receive on-the-job training, career routes can vary according to your background and time availability. It can take a year or less to become a phlebotomist, depending on the education program and whether you pursue national certification.
Common steps to take to become a phlebotomist are:
- Complete high school or receive a GED
- Enroll in a postsecondary education phlebotomy program
- Pursue a professional phlebotomy certification
- Secure a position
1. Complete high school or receive a GED
For acceptance into phlebotomy programs, candidates should have a high school diploma or an equivalent. If your high school offered phlebotomist programs, you may be able to start a phlebotomy career upon high school graduation. In most instances, however, a brief time in a postsecondary program is needed.
Related: Guide: How to Choose a Career
2. Enroll in a postsecondary education phlebotomy program
You can expect a phlebotomy program to take about a year to complete, after which you will receive a certificate. The programs are available through several vocational tech schools or community colleges and include courses in anatomy, medical terminology and physiology. They focus on procedures to ensure quality samples are taken while patients are cared for and kept safe. The basic information you will need to enroll in this mostly lab-based training may include:
- Proof of high school completion or equivalent: You can hold a GED or show your high school diploma.
- Updated immunization records: When working in a medical facility of any sort, the health of both employees and patients is of top priority. Verifying your updated records before any connection with people who may have compromised immune systems may be needed to ensure your safety and theirs.
Payment for tuition and textbooks: Once accepted into a program, students typically need to pay tuition and fees. These may or may not cover the costs for textbooks and a uniform.
3. Pursue a professional phlebotomy certification
Most employers prefer to hire candidates who have phlebotomy certification. Requirements for certification vary, but most do necessitate the successful completion of an exam. Once certification is obtained, take the necessary steps to maintain certifications. Requirements can vary by certification but typically include an annual fee and completion of continuing education.
Some available certifications are:
- Phlebotomy Technician: This certification is offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology and requires a high school diploma and either completion of an approved phlebotomy program, a year's experience on the job or related certification. As an applicant, you must pass the certification exam, and renewal is needed every three years.
- Certified Phlebotomy Technician: This certification, offered by the National Health Career Association, is earned by passing a 100-question certification exam. Renewals are needed every two years.
Registered Phlebotomy Technician: This certification is available through the American Medical Technologists. Taking this program requires a phlebotomy program consisting of 120 hours of coursework or 1,040 hours of on-the-job training showing proof of a minimum of 50 successful vein punctures and 10 capillary punctures. You must remain a member in good standing once completing the exam and renew every 3 years.
4. Secure a position
There are many different medical facilities including hospitals, clinics, blood donation institutions and laboratories which need phlebotomists. Once you secure a position, you will likely undergo some more on-the-job training to acclimate yourself to the rules, procedures and regulations where you work.
Frequently asked questions
Here are some common questions you may ask when considering a career as a phlebotomist.
How long is phlebotomy certification?
Schooling is often short in length, lasting about one to two semesters or four to eight months, depending on the program and intuition you attend. You will be prepared to work with patients and necessary medical equipment and tools in various settings.
What are the skills of a phlebotomist?
Skilled phlebotomists are skilled at data entry, have high attention to detail, have good motor skills with the ability to focus on various topics and projects at once, are excellent at communicating with people with diverse backgrounds and exhibit a strong sense of empathy for those experiencing difficulty in life.
Does phlebotomy certification expire?
Phlebotomy certifications expire every one to four years and will need to be renewed periodically to remain in good standing to practice.
Can I get a job with just a phlebotomy certificate?
Depending on the state you work in, you may also be required to get a license to work as a phlebotomist in settings such as hospitals, individual practices or clinics.