AnnaMarie Houlis
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Considering a career? We've got you. A career as a phlebotomist can be a lucrative one with a solid trajectory if you understand the path to get there. Here's everything you need to know about phlebotomists, how to get a job as a phlebotomist and what you can expect while working as a phlebotomist.

1. Learn what a phlebotomist does.

What is a phlebotomist, after all? A phlebotomist is responsible for drawing blood from patients so medical laboratory scientists can test it. This blood is then used for testing, research, transfusions, donations and more. A phlebotomist may need to assist a patient if they have an unexpected reaction during the blood-drawing experience, as well — and, since many patients are nervous about getting their blood drawn, a phlebotomist will have to help them remain calm and comfortable. Likewise,  a phlebotomist will be held responsible for keeping blood vials, needles and test tubes clean, sanitary and safe.

Additionally, a phlebotomist must be accurate in verifying the identities of donors and/or patients and carefully labeling their blood vials, as well as in entering their information into the healthcare facility's database.

"To collect blood from an arm vein, the phlebotomist first introduces himself/herself to the patient, properly identifies the patient, washes their hands, puts on gloves and applies a tourniquet to the upper arm to slow blood flow," according to Explore Health Careers. "An alcohol swab is used to disinfect a small area near the inside of the elbow. The phlebotomist then locates a vein and inserts a needle, releases the tourniquet before removing the needle and, after removing the needle, disposes of the needle immediately in a biohazard container. This process is called 'venipuncture.' The Phlebotomist must wash their hands after removing their gloves. Phlebotomists can also sample blood through skin punctures such as pricking a finger to test a patient’s blood sugar or determine blood type."

Phlebotomists generally work in healthcare facilities like doctor's offices, hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers and more. Wherever they work, phlebotomists are usually working under the supervision of a clinical laboratory technologist or another medical professional.

You might be wondering, do phlebotomists get paid well? The median average salary for a phlebotomist is $34,480 per year or $16.58 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, your benefits as a phlebotomist will depend on your employer. Some employers will offer benefits like paid time off, paid sick leave and paid parental leave, for example. It's important to ask questions about what benefits would be available to you if you were to take a job as a phlebotomist.

Phlebotomist work typically day-time hours, such as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., since they tend to work in medical facilities that are open during those hours. They can expect to work on a full-time basis, putting in an average of about 40 hours per week, like most full-time jobs.

2. Get training and experience.

What experience do you need to be a phlebotomist? To start, you will need an education. 

Sometimes, phlebotomists enter the career field with just a high school diploma and on-the-job training. That said, phlebotomists typically enter the occupation with a postsecondary non-degree award (a professional certification) from a certified phlebotomy program, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, most employers will actually require candidates for phlebotomist positions to hold a non-degree diploma or certificate from an accredited institution such as a college, university, technical school or vocational school. These phlebotomy programs usually last less than a year, but they teach phlebotomists via both classroom instruction and hands-on training (learning procedures such as how to identify and label blood samples).

Meanwhile, some employers may also require candidates to obtain and maintain a certification from an organization like the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) or the American Medical Technologists (AMT). And four states — Nevada, California, Louisiana and Washington — do indeed require phlebotomists to acquire special state certification.

Many employers, regardless of what kind, will hire only phlebotomists who have successfully passed a certification exam, completing a training program and demonstrating at least 100 successful venipunctures and 25 successful skin punctures. Different certifying organizations will require different hours of training; the National Phlebotomy Association, for example, requires 200 hours of training, which includes clinical experience.

Other professionals who might want to (or even need to) obtain a phlebotomy certification include:

  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)
  • Medical Assistants (MA)
  • Registered Nurses (RN)
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN)
  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT)

Through a certification program like the National Phlebotomy Association, membership also delivers value to phlebotomy professionals who are provided opportunities like professional development (training, CEUs and conferences) and a connection to a community of phlebotomists.

3. Apply for a job that suits your needs.

How hard is it to become a phlebotomist? The job outlook for a phlebotomist is promising, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of phlebotomists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations across the board. Doctor's offices, hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, blood donor centers and other locations will continue to need phlebotomists to perform bloodwork, so the job of a phlebotomist will continue to be in demand.

You can find phlebotomist jobs through a wealth of job search sites, including Fairygodboss' job board. You can also connect with your phlebotomist community via your certification program.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.