A phlebotomist is someone who collects blood specimens from patients who are being diagnosed and treated by a variety of healthcare providers. Because of the importance of these specimens, individuals in this profession are employed in several healthcare establishments that can include hospitals, blood banks, laboratories, and clinics. Unlike advanced fields of medical care, those who pursue this path are not going to encounter regulatory hurdles that make it difficult to enter the profession. In fact, no state in the US requires the phlebotomy technician to become licensed and only a few states have certification requirements built into their statutory code.
How to Become a Phlebotomist
Since nationally recognized certification is a common standard used by employers to verify the competence of a technician, it seems logical to develop one’s understanding of how to become a phlebotomist on the eligibility requirements established by well-respected certifying organizations. The American Medical Technologist (AMT) and the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) are two popular organizations in the industry that can provide insight into how an individual might go about entering the profession. As always, those who plan to pursue this career path are advised to contact potential employers to learn more about their unique expectations prior to enrolling in a training program or scheduling an exam date. Employers often have different hiring requirements that could dramatically impact the way in which an individual enters the profession. Developing an understanding of these variations early in the career development process can save time, money, and energy.
The AMT has two routes that can be taken to qualify for the phlebotomist exam. The first route requires an individual to be a graduate of an accredited phlebotomy training program. In order to be accredited, the program needs to be approved by a regional or national agency that is recognized by the Department of Education, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or the AMT Board of Directors. The program is also required to include at least 120 hours of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Individuals who use this route to become eligible for the exam must have graduated within the previous four years. Although this route is an excellent option and one that is commonly followed, it is important to consider the alternatives when learning about how to become a phlebotomist.
The second route for becoming eligible to sit for the AMT certification exam is based on practical experience in the profession. Individuals who have completed a minimum of 1,040 hours of work experience as a technician within the past three years and who provide proof of graduation from high school may become eligible to take the exam. It is mandatory for the experience to include venipuncture and skin puncture, specimen processing, communication skills, and clerical duties. In addition, the facility in which the technician is employed must be approved by the Board and must regularly engage in the collection, examination, or transport of materials derived from the human body. Applicants wanting to acquire the registered phlebotomy technician (RPT) credential and who hasve passed another approved organization’s exam are not required to sit for the exam as long as they have met the requirements for either route outlined above.
The NCCT has six routes to become eligible to take the National Certified Patient Care Technician (NCPCT) exam. The first 2 routes require an applicant to either be a current student in a phlebotomy technician training program authorized by the NCCT or have graduated from such a program in the past ten years. Those using this route must have a high school diploma or GED, a copy of the phlebotomy certificate or diploma, and the phlebotomy technician certification critical skill competency form. Those who have completed training in the military are offered a similar educational route. Individuals who have military credentials must have a high school diploma or GED, submit a copy of a SMART transcript or DD214, and complete the critical skill form linked to above.
Another route for NCPCT exam eligibility is based on experience within the profession. Applicants who use this route to become eligible must have a high school diploma or GED, one year of full-time employment or 2,080 hours of experience as a phlebotomy technician under the direct supervision of a physician or primary care provider within the past ten years, and submit the phlebotomy technician certification qualification by experience form. The other routes require applicants to have equivalent credentials to those outlined above or ten consecutive years of teaching experience as a phlebotomy technician. For those who are attempting to evaluate the best route for how to become a phlebotomist, an training program or a minimum of one year of experience are likely going to be the most popular options.
A career as a phlebotomist is an excellent employment option for those who want to work in healthcare, but with a minimal amount of college education or specialized training. The phlebotomy technician performs a service that is highly valued within the industry and that is essential to the effective management of medical conditions. Because there is a fair amount of variability in hiring expectations between employers, it is a good idea for aspiring technicians to take time to contact potential employers to find out how to become a phlebotomist in their facility. This approach can help to streamline the career advancement process and can serve to accelerate entry into the profession.