Clinical Laboratory Scientist Jobs in California: Changes & Trends

Job titles & more: See what’s changing with CLS jobs in CA

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor

CLS Jobs in CaliforniaClinical laboratory scientists (CLS), pathologists and other types of lab techs are needed at facilities across the nation, ranging from large hospitals to smaller laboratories. CLS jobs in California are especially plentiful, but those seeking jobs in the state will find variations in everything from credentialing and licensing to what their job titles are even called.

As the world’s largest professional membership organization for pathologists and laboratory professionals, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) is working to build the laboratory workforce and ensure its members are educated, credentialed and certified. 

Lee H. Hilborne, MD, MPH, DLM, CM, FASCP, spokesperson for ASCP, provided an in-depth overview of the current CLS job market and explained some of the nuances of the industry that is continuing to grow, expand and evolve year-over-year. 

Name that job: MT & CLS = MLS

The pathology and laboratory disciplines include many different specialties and unique acronyms.  Hilborne shared that the titles of medical technologist (MT) and CLS are the same and are oftentimes used interchangeably. And recent changes may soon make the title of medical technologist virtually obsolete.

The ASCP Board of Certification does not use either MT or CLS anymore, and now uses MLS (Medical Laboratory Scientist) for those professionals who have been recently certified. 

“The distinction was a bit historical,” Hilborne said. “ASCP Board of Registry (BOR) used MT and the National Credentialing Agency (NCA) Board of Certification (BOC) used the term CLS. When the BOR and the BOC came together, the new term is now MLS.”

Why the specific naming of CLS jobs in California? 

“Some of the laboratory professionals were aggressive in getting the wording in California law to read Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) for those practicing the profession, but in fact they are the same thing,” he explained.

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California CLS licensure, certifications & credentials 

Some states have licensure and some do not, but clinical laboratory scientist jobs in California do require a specific license. 

“California is a licensure state – so we license both the laboratory and the laboratory professionals,” Hilborne said. “A number of states do this and more are recognizing the importance of licensure for laboratory professionals.”

“California used to offer their own examination but now they accept the BOC examination,” he continued. “If somebody doesn’t qualify for BOC certification, they can still take the examination and then apply for California licensure.”

Hilborne added that there are other education and training requirements that are reviewed by Laboratory Field Services (part of the California Department of Public Health) that are specified in California law.  

“There are unique categories of licensees – that are categorical in California in addition to the generalist licensure – although this exists in the BOC and in some other states,” he said. Some examples of the CLS specialist categories include: Blood Banking, SBB; Chemistry, SC; Hematology, SH; Microbiology, SM; and Pathologists' Assistant, PA. 

The job market: CLS jobs in CA & other locations

Keeping a finger on the pulse of the medical technologist/clinical laboratory scientist job market is a key initiative for the ASCP, and according to Hilborne, the job market is trending upward in terms of demand. The group has noted that there is clearly a shortage of licensed personnel. 

“There are probably two new people entering the field for every three that retire,” he said. “This is creating an increasing shortage of professionals and our training programs have not kept up. There are more individuals coming from outside the U.S. in terms of training – hence the individuals who may take the California test (ASCP exam without qualifying for BOC certification).”

While California is a state that offers an abundance of CLS jobs, there are also other high-need locations that are in need of trained medical laboratory scientists and other allied healthcare techs. “There are greater shortages in rural areas and in more urban areas where salary is less competitive (e.g., public facilities, larger reference labs), although that varies with location,” Hilborne said. 

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Workplace settings

Clinical laboratory scientists work in multiple settings and specialty areas, the most common being in hospitals and medical centers and in larger reference laboratories (e.g, Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp). 

“In large group practices that exceed the definition of a physician office laboratory, then the laboratory must be licensed and meet requirements including those of personnel. Therefore, these larger practices that do a broader range of tests will also need to have licensed laboratories that hire at least some licensed personnel,” Hilborne concluded. 

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