Updated on October 4, 2022
Have you, or someone you know, always been interested in science? Was science your favourite subject in high school? If your answer is yes, then you've probably been thinking about a professional career in a science-related field for quite some time now. And if you're reading this article in particular, then it is almost certain that you've been asking yourself this question: "should I consider a medical laboratory assistant program?" Keep reading to find out the answer to this and other questions.
Let's get straight to the point, as this article won't address the details of the lab assistant career. You can get those by reading our previous article titled "Everything You Need to Know About Medical Lab Assistant Jobs". Instead, our focus is on providing you with essential information about Medical Lab Assistant Programs.
When you enroll in a medical lab assistant program or course, which usually lasts about a year, you begin a journey into the world of health sciences. Soon enough you'll be learning to perform procedures like collecting and processing samples, urinalysis, positioning Holter monitors, ECGs (electrocardiograms, the tests that check how hearts are functioning by measuring their electrical activity), and all the pre-analysis components of medical lab work and clinical chemistry.
Furthermore, medical lab assistant programs prepare students to excel in the medical laboratory field. In Ontario, for instance, all programs aim to provide students with all the knowledge needed to get certified by the Medical Laboratory Professionals' Association of Ontario (MLPAO, previously known as OSMT) and approve the national exam offered by the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) to be able to practice in hospital laboratories, private laboratories, private clinics, blood donor testing centres, and research facilities across the country.
If you're interested in the healthcare field, but you prefer health sciences instead of the clinical side of it, and you were particularly good at biology and chemistry in your previous academic experiences, we'd say go for it!
Also, if you're looking for a career in healthcare because you like helping people and making their lives better, and you also love science, then a medical lab assistant course might be the right choice for you. The same is true if you happen to be an introvert who likes healthcare but don't want a role that will require significant interaction with patients. There are many medical lab assistant jobs that involve minimal patient communication, as they focus on assisting physicians in the diagnosis of medical conditions.
Other scenarios: You love the idea of a career in healthcare, but you don't want to go to school for years and years, so you would prefer a career path that you can get into in two years or less. Or, you like the idea of working as a "medical detective" using samples of blood, urine, or other biological material to confirm or rule out medical conditions. Whichever the case, a medical lab assistant program is a good idea for you.
Depending on where you are located in Canada, you can find a medical lab assistant program that fits your needs. There are also options for those who prefer online classes, however, laboratory practices are only conducted in person.
Most of the medical lab assistant programs in Canada are accredited by Accreditation Canada, which makes graduates eligible to write the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) national exam for Medical Laboratory Assistants (MLAs). Obtaining the national certification as a medical laboratory assistant is very important for students, as it prepares them for work opportunities across Canada.
In Canada, the top provinces where students can enroll in a medical lab assistant program are Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.
In Ontario, over 50 colleges offer medical lab assistant programs, according to ontariocolleges.ca. Those who graduate will likely get employed for a salary ranging between $30,000 and $35,000 a year to start. Before they are able to practice, candidates need to apply to write the Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario (MLPAO) certification exam.
In Toronto and everywhere else in the GTA, local and international students can find multiple opportunities to pursue a medical laboratory assistant career. What’s best is that many of the available medical lab assistant programs in Toronto can be completed in less than a year, so students can get out there and start building their careers in record time.
To discover the post-secondary institutions that are currently offering medical lab assistant programs, we recommend you visit resources like the Ontario Colleges site and start networking with people working in this field to get recommendations from people who went through the process already and can help you make an informed decision.
Ottawa is another popular location for students looking to enter healthcare. It is one of the top choices for medical laboratory assistants when looking for a program that meets their needs. Post-secondary institutes in Ottawa offering medical lab assistant programs usually allow students to complete their studies in less than a year, during which they will learn all about medical laboratory operations, testing, lab safety, relevant terminology, anatomy, physiology, and all the soft skills they need to succeed, such as communication, professionalism, and teamwork.
A great benefit of choosing Ottawa for pursuing a medical lab assistant job is that its proximity to Quebec offers another world of academic possibilities, especially for international students coming from French-speaking countries or for those who want to polish their language skills in both English and French to double their chances of succeeding in the labour market.
In British Columbia, students have a wide array of medical laboratory assistant (MLA) programs to choose from, especially in Vancouver and Victoria. It should be noted that the British Columbia Society of Laboratory Science (BCSLS) has established standards for the training of Medical Laboratory Assistants, which means that graduates of educational programs approved by BCSLS are eligible to obtain a BCSLS MLA Certificate to be able to practice in this field.
Most medical lab assistant programs in BC provide students with extensive knowledge of hematology, urinalysis, cardiovascular systems, cytology and histology in a variety of hands-on courses and practice classes conducted in fully-equipped classrooms and laboratory settings.
People living in Calgary, Edmonton, and other cities in Alberta can choose among the numerous medical laboratory assistant (MLA) programs available across the province. Most colleges offer fast-track MLA programs that train students to collect samples, process them, prepare patient specimens, enter data, and carry out basic laboratory procedures. Like it happens in other provinces, in Alberta all colleges provide classroom and laboratory instructions, followed by a practicum experience in a medical laboratory.
As previously stated, there are many colleges across Canada offering medical lab assistant programs online with top-rated virtual lectures and experienced faculty members. However, all of the programs require completing practice sessions in in-person labs, so students can't be physically too far from their campus if pursuing a degree in this field.
If you're new to Canada and are considering a medical lab assistant program, there are several things you need to know before you enroll.
First and foremost, you will need to demonstrate language proficiency (English or French, depending on where you live) for admission. Then, you will need to provide other documents such as criminal background checks, transcripts from your previous education abroad, and letters of recommendation. For more detailed information, you should consult the post-secondary institute of your choice.
And to learn about employment prospects and career development opportunities once you become a medical lab assistant, don't hesitate to sign up to our platform and create a free healthcare worker account. Visit our homepage Caring Support to get started. Once you do that, you will have access to our extensive job board where you will see dozens of current job postings that will give you an accurate idea of what medical lab assistant employers are looking for.
If you have any other questions or comments about medical lab assistant programs and courses, leave us a comment below. Otherwise, we wish you the best of luck in your journey to becoming a medical lab assistant.
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