What Is a Phlebotomist? Job Outlook and How To Become One
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated July 1, 2021
Published February 4, 2020
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Phlebotomy can be a rewarding career choice for people who are interested in working directly with patients in various health care settings. Becoming a phlebotomist is also a straightforward process that typically involves a short educational program and one or more certifications depending on the state in which you live.
In this article, we discuss what a phlebotomist is, their job outlook, average salary and how to become one.
What is a phlebotomist?
A phlebotomist is a professional who draws blood from a patient for testing, donation, research or transfusion. If you have ever donated blood or have had blood drawn for testing, you have met a phlebotomist. A phlebotomist can work at a medical institution, hospital, private company, outpatient laboratory, blood donation center or as a mobile phlebotomist.
Related: Learn About Being a Hematologist
What does a phlebotomist do?
In short, a phlebotomist draws blood. A phlebotomist’s main function is performing venipuncture, the process of drawing blood from a patient’s vein. On occasion, a phlebotomist will sometimes get a capillary blood sample through a thumb or heel prick depending on the patient’s age, accessibility and health status. Blood may be drawn for several reasons, such as acquiring blood cell counts, metabolic panels, transfusions, clotting tests or blood donations.
While a phlebotomist’s core responsibility is to find veins, apply and release tourniquets and follow good hygiene practices, a phlebotomist also:
Greets patients and confirms medical records
Conducts blood draws from patients for testing or donation
Inputs patient information into the medical computer system
Assembles necessary equipment and tools for procedures
Ensures proper labeling of blood vials used for collection
Tracks blood samples through label identification
Manages inventory of supplies and medical instruments
Explains the process of blood draws to patients
Assists patients in recovery or who experience reactions
Related: How Much Does a Phlebotomist Make?
Qualifications to become a phlebotomist
The exact requirements to become a phlebotomist vary from state to state, but most employers will expect phlebotomists to have trained through a certificate program that doesn’t require more than a high school diploma to enter. A phlebotomy certificate program can take anywhere from a few weeks to two years, depending on state requirements and how extensive the program is.
What are the required phlebotomy certifications?
There are many recognized organizations, each with its own prerequisites and methods of accreditation. Here are a few that offer phlebotomy certifications:
ASCP BOC: American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification
AMT: American Medical Technologists
NHA: National Healthcareer Association
NCCT: National Center for Competency Testing
Apart from receiving a nondegree diploma or certificate from a college or technical school, four states require additional phlebotomy certifications:
California: The California Department of Public Health requires a phlebotomy certificate to practice phlebotomy in the state of California. California also distinguishes phlebotomy licensure into three different levels of expertise.
Louisiana: The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiner requires licensure for practicing clinical laboratory personnel in the state of Louisiana.
Nevada: The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health requires a medical laboratory personnel licensing certificate to practice phlebotomy in the state of Nevada.
Washington: The Washington State Department of Health requires medical assistant/phlebotomist certification to practice phlebotomy in the state of Washington.
What is the job outlook for phlebotomists and how much do they make?
Considering that there is a demand for phlebotomists in most regions with plenty of projected job growth in the next decade, the job outlook for phlebotomists is strong. As of June 5, 2021—based on 15,000 salaries reported to Indeed—the national average salary for phlebotomists is $13.10 per hour, with some phlebotomists earning more in larger cities and with more experience. For updated salary information, follow the link to Indeed Salaries.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected change in employment for phlebotomists from 2019 to 2029 is expected to increase 17%, which is much faster than the average 5% growth rate of all occupations.
How to become a phlebotomist
The pathway into phlebotomy is straightforward. While some employers in certain states could potentially hire you as a phlebotomist without any qualifications, most do require certification that can be achieved after completing a short program. If you live or plan to work in California, Louisiana, Nevada and Washington, you will have to follow their licensing requirements after receiving your initial certification. In other words, to become a phlebotomist, you should do the following:
1. Earn a high school diploma or GED
While employers in states that don't require additional certification could theoretically hire you as a phlebotomist and begin with on-the-job training, it is much more common to become certified for this field. The vast majority of phlebotomy programs will require the equivalent of a high school diploma to enter their programs.
2. Attend a phlebotomy nondegree program
Attending a phlebotomy program at an accredited college or technical school to receive a nondegree certificate in phlebotomy can help you become a more suitable candidate for a phlebotomist position. Programs vary in length anywhere from a few weeks to two years, with most certifications taking less than a year.
When choosing a program, you should consider whether or not your program includes hands-on training, an internship or externship, or if your fees and preparation for any certification exams obtained through an accredited organization are included.
3. Obtain certification from a recognized certifying organization
Many certifying organizations offer phlebotomy certifications. While a lot of trade schools will include testing fees and exam preparation within the program, you should research these specifics before enrolling. You should also become acquainted with any state requirements in your area.
Some widely recognized organizations that offer phlebotomy certifications include the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the American Medical Technologists, the National Association of Phlebotomy Technicians, the National Healthcareer Association and the National Center for Competency Testing.
4. Obtain state certification if needed
As detailed above, in the states of California, Louisiana, Nevada and Washington, you will also have to certify separately with the state apart from your training program. Check your state website to find out if any additional state certifications are required.
Related: Phlebotomist Resume Samples
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