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Who's Who in the Lab: A Look at Laboratory Professionals

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Outlook for Lab Professionals

Clinical scientists accounted for 325,800 jobs in 2012. About half of these jobs were in hospitals; the remainder were in clinics, doctor's offices, blood banks, and independent clinical, forensic, and research laboratories, or with the government (such as the Public Health Service).

Despite changes in the field, including technological advances that can automate some tasks, the need for laboratory professionals is expected to grow much faster than the average employment, by 22% between 2012 and 2022. With population growth and aging, increased coverage of screening tests resulting from federal health care reform, and the development of new tests, the volume of laboratory tests is expected to increase.

However, there is a documented shortage of working laboratory professionals in the U.S. According to a survey performed each year by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, laboratory professions are seeing an average vacancy rate of 5-6%. The number of working lab personnel has declined for a number of reasons, including retirement. At the same time, many educational programs are at capacity and cannot expand, limiting the number of new graduates each year.

Some state educational systems as well as other organizations with an interest in promoting the lab profession are responding with efforts to combat this shortage, such as through scholarships and endowments. For information on job opportunities and educational programs, see the Resources page at the end of this article.

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