Medical Lab Assistant Schools & Colleges

Put your caring energy into a vocational field you'll feel proud to be part of.

Canada's medical lab assistant schools can prepare you for one of the most integral and satisfying roles in all of healthcare. It's the kind of occupational choice that has real purpose as well as good-paying opportunities.

Why We Need Medical Laboratory Assistants and Technicians: The Facts

Doctors are vitally important, but they can't do everything themselves. In order to give their patients the right diagnoses and treatments, physicians must have access to detailed, timely, and accurate information. And one of the best ways to get the kind of scientific data they need is through laboratory testing. In fact, many statistics show just how much doctors and patients rely on this process. For example, consider that:

  • Every day in Canada, more than 1.2 million medical laboratory tests are carried out.*
  • Each year, more than 14,000 medical traumas are treated across the country. Lab tests often play a decisive role in helping emergency doctors figure out critical things like how much oxygen is in a patient's blood, what his or her blood type is, whether he or she is experiencing any internal bleeding, or if a heart attack is taking place.*
  • On a daily basis, nearly 500 cases of cancer are diagnosed as a result of the work done by Canadian medical labs.* And early detection is key when it comes to getting effective treatment.

What a Laboratory Career Involves

A medical laboratory assistant (MLA)—sometimes called a medical laboratory technician—is a professional who performs many interesting tasks related to collecting, preparing, and testing bodily fluids and tissues. Their job responsibilities tend to be very technical and engaging, but not generally stressful. For instance, on any given day, they might:

  • Collect blood, urine, or tissue samples
  • Carefully prepare collected samples by checking their quality, matching up patient information, making labels, entering data into a computer system, and setting up slides for microscopic analysis
  • Perform basic laboratory tests on blood and other bodily fluids while assisting in the preparation of more complex tests to be carried out by medical laboratory technologists

The work of MLAs makes it possible for patients to be screened for everything from vitamin and mineral deficiencies to Hepatitis and HIV to inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Lab tests can provide clues and hard evidence related to a staggering number of different medical conditions.

Pay, Outlook, and Advancement Potential

Because of Canada's rising number of seniors, most healthcare vocations are expected to experience surging demand for qualified workers for many years to come. The field of medical laboratory diagnostics is no exception. As a result, the typical salary of an MLA in this country is quite good. In fact, the nationwide median wage is $24.77 per hour, which translates to annual full-time pay of $51,522. And in some provinces, such as Saskatchewan, MLA salaries can go as high as $86,528, or $41.60 per hour.**

A variety of different places hire medical lab assistants and technicians. Potential employers include hospitals, private labs, health clinics, research facilities, and blood transfusion centres. Plus, MLAs are needed across nearly the entire nation, meaning that opportunities may exist wherever you choose to go.

And don't overlook how you could advance in your career. With additional training and the proper credentials, an MLA can become a medical laboratory technologist (MLT), which usually means higher pay. The median hourly pay for Canadian MLTs is $32.15 (about $66,800 annually), and experienced MLTs can earn as much as $45 ( or $93,600 annually) in some areas of the country.**

The Education You Need

It usually takes a two- or three-year college program to get the formal training required to begin in this field.** And there are vocational schools offering medical laboratory assistant training in several different provinces. So you are probably already near one.

Plus, unless you want to become a combined laboratory and x-ray technician in Alberta, you don't necessarily need any certification beyond what you earn from school. Professional MLA certification is voluntary. However, it might give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs.

The main certifying body for MLAs is the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS), which has a fairly simple and straightforward process for earning its credential. In some provinces, you can also go through a regional organization, such as the British Columbia Society of Laboratory Science (BCSLS) or the Medical Laboratory Professionals' Association of Ontario (MLPAO).

Start Pursuing Your Medical Lab Tech Career Today

A lot of Canada's vocational colleges provide medical laboratory assistant training opportunities that can help you start in this field. And it takes only a moment to find one near you. Simply type your postal code into the search box on this page to begin.

Main Sources

* Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, website last visited on July 4, 2017.

** Job Bank, Government of Canada, website last visited on February 28, 2018.