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Phlebotomy Certification

If you are looking at phlebotomy as a career choice, you have come to the right place. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know as you explore answers to the following questions:

  1. What is a phlebotomist?
  2. What special qualities does a phlebotomist need?
  3. What are the steps to become a phlebotomist?
  4. What is the difference between certification and licensure for a phlebotomist?
  5. What does my state require to be a phlebotomist?
  6. What are the pros and cons of online training versus classroom training?
  7. What is the cost of phlebotomy training courses?
  8. What will I learn in a phlebotomy certification course?
  9. What organizations manage phlebotomy certification?
  10. What content can I expect to see on the phlebotomy certification exam?
  11. What’s the job market like for a certified phlebotomist?
  12. How much can a certified phlebotomist expect to make?

Below is a link to each question and answer in the table of contents.

 

What is a phlebotomist?

Phlebotomy is from the Greek words “phlebo” (referring to a blood vessel) and “tomia” (cutting). Therefore, the short answer is: A phlebotomist is a person who “cuts a blood vessel” (by sticking a needle into a vein) to draw a patient’s blood. Simple, right? Well, maybe it is simple on occasion. That is, it is simple unless your patient is a child, or afraid of needles, or doesn’t have good veins. Moreover, this definition doesn’t even begin to cover the organizational, team, and computer skills you will need to fulfill the role.

The role of a phlebotomist includes skills such as:

  • People skills – working with teams and patients
  • Manual skills – working with your hands
  • Skills within the organization – following the policies and procedures and using supplies wisely
People SkillsManual SkillsSkills Within the Organization

• Communication!

• Working with Team

• Recognizing and managing problems with patients

• Empathy and compassion

• Understand and respect cultural differences

 

• Manual dexterity

• Manipulation of needles and syringes

• Collection of other specimens

• Correctly labeling specimens

• Reading, writing, and some typing

• Ability to stand for extended periods

• Policies and Procedures

• Knowing supplies you need

• Keeping work area clean and sanitary

• Basic computer skills

• Documentation within the medical record

• Critical thinking

 

 

What special qualities does a phlebotomist need?

You need to have the skill to collect the ordered specimens. You must know which tubes and containers are appropriate for each order. These skills are ones you will learn during your training and orientation to your job.

However, the less tangible skills are ones that will make you a truly exceptional phlebotomist. First, you must be very organized and must pay attention to details. Second, you must be respectful of everyone, and liking people is a huge plus. You must have empathy for the individual, but you must also be able to step back from the person and do the job you have to do. No one likes to be stuck by a needle, but you have to understand why the tests are required to inflict some momentary pain. Finally, you must understand and appreciate that there are cultural differences among your patients that might affect the way they react to you.

What are the steps to become a phlebotomist?

Your next question is probably something like: what do I have to do to become a phlebotomist? That may be different depending on the state in which you live. Be sure to check the licensing agency or state health department in your state for specific requirements. However, there are a few steps that you should take if you are interested in phlebotomy.

  1. To become a phlebotomist, most states require that you have a high school diploma or a GED. In most states, you must be 18 years old to work as a phlebotomist.
  2. Special phlebotomy training will help you get licensed or certified and will make you more comfortable in your first job — more about training below.
  3. If you live in a state that requires certification or licensure, you must take the class or test from an appropriate agency or organization. See the requirements for each state below.
  4. In some states, you can apply for a job at a local hospital, facility, or laboratory. In these cases, you are likely to get on-the-job training with a mentor.

What is the difference between certification and licensure for a  phlebotomist?

We have talked a little bit about certification and licensure, but what do those words mean? What is the difference between certification and licensure?

“Licensure” is a state-mandated and sanctioned process in which you apply for and receive permission from the state to practice in a field. Typically, you must pass a course and then pass an exam before you are licensed. If required by the state, you cannot be a phlebotomist without the license. To legally practice, you MUST have a license.

“Certification” refers to the process in which a non-governmental organization recognized by the state has deemed that you have met requirements that allows you to perform certain tasks. Certification does NOT mean that you are licensed as a phlebotomist in those states that require licensure. That is a separate process.

What does my state require to be a phlebotomist?

It is important to know whether your state requires certification, licensure, both, or neither. Your primary source for this information should always be the State Department of Health or the board that governs phlebotomy in the state where you will work.

State

License Required?

Certification Required?

Phlebotomy Training Required?

Other Requirements

Alabama

No

No

Yes

 

Alaska

No

No

No

 

Arizona

No

No

Yes

 

Arkansas

No

Maybe

No

Specific work sites may require certification

California

No

Yes

Yes

Must renew certification every two years

Colorado

No

Yes

Yes

 

Connecticut

No

No

Yes

 

Delaware

No

No

No

 

Florida

No

No

Yes

 

Georgia

No

Maybe

No

Specific work sites may require certification

Hawaii

No

No

Yes

 

Idaho

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Illinois

No

No

Yes

NAACLS or ASCP must accredit training programs

Indiana

No

No

Yes

NAACLS or ASCP must accredit training programs

Iowa

No

No

No

 

Kansas

No

No

No

 

Kentucky

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Louisiana

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Maine

No

No

Yes

 

Maryland

No

No

Yes

 

Massachusetts

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Michigan

No

Maybe

No

Specific work sites may require certification

Minnesota

No

No

Yes

 

Mississippi

No

No

No

 

Missouri

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Montana

No

No

Yes

 

Nebraska

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Nevada

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

New Hampshire

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

New Jersey

No

No

No

 

New Mexico

No

No

No

 

New York

No

No

Yes

 

North Carolina

No

No

Yes

 

North Dakota

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Ohio

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Oklahoma

No

No

Yes

 

Oregon

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Pennsylvania

No

No

Yes

 

Rhode Island

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

South Carolina

No

No

Yes

 

South Dakota

No

No

No

 

Tennessee

No

No

Yes

 

Texas

No

No

No

 

Utah

No

No

No

 

Vermont

No

Maybe

Yes

Specific work sites may require certification

Virginia

No

No

Yes

 

Washington

Yes

Yes

Yes

Certification must be renewed every two years with continuing education

West Virginia

No

No

No

 

Wisconsin

No

No

No

 

Wyoming

No

No

No

 

 

Regardless of the requirements in the state, your chances of getting a job are MUCH better if you are certified by one of the certification organizations. National certification will also mean you can move to a state that DOES require certification if you decide to move in the future. Certification shows a potential employer that you are serious about being the best phlebotomist you can be!

 

 

What are the pros and cons of online training versus classroom training?

Once you decide that you want or must get formal phlebotomy training, it is time to select a training program. Again, the first step you should take is to check with your state agency to see if they have requirements for the program(s) that they will recognize.

Online Training Pros

Online Training Cons

Classroom Training Pros

Classroom Training Cons

• Location does not matter

• Easy access to resources

• Easy to transfer information to and from students

• Maybe a less expensive option

• Limited travel

• Lessons often can be completed at the time most convenient for the student

• More individualized

• Technology and internet access must be available

• Complex subjects may be harder to learn

• Isolation from other students

• Hands-on training must be arranged individually

• May allow more passive students not to participate

• Some students may not be disciplined enough

• Interaction in the classroom

• Exchange of ideas may promote better learning

• Face-to-face interaction with the instructor

• The instructor can “see” what students might be having trouble

• Hands-on practice  may be enhanced

 

• May require travel to a distant location

• Maybe a more expensive option

• Identifying issues in a big group may be more difficult

• One or two vocal students might dominate discussions

 

 

When trying to decide whether online or classroom training is right for you, it is important that you understand your learning style. If you know that you put things off, online training may not be for you. You may simply require the rigor of a classroom setting. On the other hand, if you are trying to work and get training at the same time, an online course might be the solution for you.

What is the cost of phlebotomy training courses?

This is a great question, but the answer is: it depends! The most important thing to do as you look for courses is to be sure that your state recognizes the accreditation of the course. Often, the state agency website that controls phlebotomy in your state will list accredited programs of study.

If you take a course in the classroom, the cost can vary from free to over $2500. Free courses are typically those that are offered by your employer before you begin to work. Although most courses are not free, a potential employer may agree to pay you the money you spend once you pass the course. Courses at community colleges and technical schools will usually cost the per credit hour rate charged for any other course. If you happen to live in a state where technical education is free, be sure to see if you qualify to take advantage of that opportunity. States that offer tuition-free programs today include:

  • Arkansas – Arkansas Future
  • California – California Promise
  • Delaware – SEED Scholarship
  • Hawaii – The Hawaii Promise
  • Indiana – 21st Century Scholars
  • Kentucky – Work Ready Kentucky
  • Maryland – Maryland Community College Scholarship
  • Minnesota – MnSCU Occupational Grant Program
  • Missouri – A+ Scholarship
  • Montana – Montana Promise
  • Nevada – Nevada Promise
  • New York – Excelsior Scholarship
  • Oklahoma – Oklahoma’s Promise
  • Oregon – Oregon Promise
  • Rhode Island – Rhode Island Promise
  • Tennessee – Tennessee Promise
  • Washington – College Bound Scholarship

States are added to this list as the state government passes legislation, so be sure to check with your state education agency to see if free or reduced tuition programs are available to you. Also, be sure to check to see if a phlebotomy course is offered at the community college where your tuition might be free.

Many programs have basic and advanced courses that will cost different amounts, so know what is required and what you can afford.

Online training courses are usually cheaper than classroom courses. The cost of online courses ranges from $300 to $1000. However, if you live in a state with free Community College tuition, and you qualify for a free school, classroom training will be cheaper.

A good question to ask before starting any course is what is included in the course. Does it include hands-on training? Resource material? What formal testing is required in your state? If the course does not include those things in the basic course cost, the cost can be significantly more. Look at several different options BEFORE you spend your money.

What will I learn in a phlebotomy certification course?

 

The course of study will depend on where you take your class and if you are preparing for a certification exam. In general, you should expect to see at least the following in your phlebotomy course curriculum:

  • Anatomy and physiology of the human body
  • Medical terminology that will introduce you to words used in the healthcare field
  • Infection control, safe work practices, and how to prevent needlestick injuries
  • Asepsis and disposal of bio-hazard wastes
  • Blood specimen collection including venipuncture, capillary blood draws, and occasionally arterial sticks
  • The different tubes for blood collection and when they are used
  • Non-blood specimen collection
  • Proper labeling, transport, and storage of specimens
  • CPR and first aid techniques
  • Legal and ethical issues you might encounter in your practice
  • Documentation in the medical record both handwritten and computer
  • Communication and working with patients, families, and other team members

Don’t worry if you don’t know what some of these things are or what they mean! That is exactly why a phlebotomy course is highly recommended even in states that do not require them. A good course will provide all the information you need to start your career as a phlebotomist. The best courses will also provide clinical opportunities to practice what you are learning in the course. Even online courses will often try to connect students with local labs or hospitals where you can practice your clinical skills.

What organizations manage phlebotomy certification?

 

Right now, there is not one organization that manages phlebotomy certification on a national basis. Consequently, it is important that you know what certification organization is recognized by the state where you will practice. There are six organizations that you might consider for phlebotomy certification:

Certifying Organization

Abbreviation

Website

Eligibility Requirements

Exam Information

American Certification Agency

ACA


www.acacert.com

 

High School diploma or equivalent; One year experience OR completion of the training program

2-hour online exam plus phlebotomy practical; $100 fee; valid for two years

American Medical Technologists

AMT

www.americanmedtech.org

1050 hours of work experience within the past three years OR completion of the training program

Valid for one year; must be a member of AMT; $83 fee

American Society of Clinical Pathologists

ASCP

www.ascp.org

High School diploma or equivalent; One year experience in the past five years OR completion of the training program

Computer adaptive testing that increases in difficulty as student answers questions correctly; $135 fee

American Society of Phlebotomy

ASPT


www.aspt.org

 

Primarily provides continuing education for phlebotomists; If your state requires certification, this one probably is not the best choice

$85 fee and membership in the organization

National Center for Competency Testing

NCCT


www.ncctinc.com

 

High School diploma or equivalent; Completion of a training program approved by NCCT OR 2080 hours experience within the last ten years

$135 fee with a reduced fee for graduates of a program within six months of the certification application

National Healthcare Association

NHA


www.nhanow.com

 

Work experience or approved education in phlebotomy

$105 fee; Score of 390 out of 500 to pass exam; valid for two years with ten continuing education hours in that time

 

What content can I expect to see on the phlebotomy certification exam?

Each of the certifying agencies has their certification exam for phlebotomy. The good news is that most of the content is similar across the exams with the differences being in what percentage of the tests are devoted to each area. The information presented here can be a useful tool when you are looking for phlebotomy courses in preparation for a certification exam since this content should be included in any course you take.

Certification Exam Content Areas

Examples of Content

Core Knowledge

·         Role of phlebotomist in lab testing and patient care

·         Restocking and ordering supplies

·         Familiarity with policies and procedures

·         Medical terminology

·         Asepsis and infection control

·         Hand hygiene

·         Blood components

·         Blood groups and typing

·         Vascular anatomy

·         General circulatory system anatomy and physiology

·         Hemostasis and coagulation

·         Common errors that a phlebotomist can control

·         Common tests doctors order

·         Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act

·         Documentation and reporting requirements

·         Verbal and non-verbal communication with patients, families, team members

·         Cultural and religious sensitivity

·         Professional appearance

·         Professionalism

·         Telephone etiquette

·         Ethical standards

·         Escalation of issues to supervisor

Safety and Compliance

·         Regulations from OSHA, CLSI, CDC, and NIOSH

·         HIPAA Regulations

·         Americans with Disabilities Act

·         Quality Control

·         Scope of Practice

·         Biohazards and Bloodborne Pathogens Standards

·         Transmission-based precautions

·         Standard precautions and personal protective equipment

·         Aseptic techniques

·         Infection control standards

·         Material Safety Data Sheets

Patient Preparation

·         Communication with patients

·         Patient identification

·         Obtaining consent from the patient

·         Requisition forms

·         Patient compliance with testing requirements

·         Special considerations before specimen collection

·         Explanation of procedures

·         Determine site for specimen collection

·         Patient instruction for specimen collection

Routine Blood Collection

·         Selection of appropriate equipment

·         Verification of quality of equipment

·         Tourniquet application and removal

·         Use of antiseptic agents at the blood collection site

·         Venipuncture technique

·         “Order of draw” for venipuncture

·         Potential complications

·         Dermal puncture for capillary blood collection

·         Post-procedure patient care

Special Collections

·         Peripheral blood smears

·         Blood cultures

·         Blood donation and blood bank typing

·         Blood alcohol

·         Point of care testing

·         High-risk patients

·         Neonatal screening and heel sticks

·         Assisting other team members with specimen collection

Non-Blood Specimen Collection

·         Anatomy and physiology of specimen collection

·         Patient preparation for non-blood specimen collection

·         Instruct patients in collection of non-blood specimens

·         Handling of specimens (Time, Temperature, Light requirements)

Processing

·         Preparing specimens for testing and transport

·         Recording and labeling specimens

·         Handling requirements for specimens

·         Chain of custody guidelines

·         Use of laboratory information system

·         Critical values

·         Distribution of lab values to care providers

 

What’s the job market like for a certified phlebotomist?

Again, the short answer is: it depends. The job market for a phlebotomist depends on many factors:

  • Geographical location
  • Urban versus a rural area
  • Availability of hospitals, laboratories, and other facilities in the area

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is part of the United States Department of Labor. It is the job of the BLS to look at trends for all occupations and predict what the job outlook and pay might be for a particular occupation.

The BLS notes that almost all employers prefer to hire phlebotomists with professional certification from one of the certifying organizations. This is a great argument to pursue certification, even if your state does NOT require it.

The BLS predicts that over the 2016-2026 time range employment of phlebotomists will grow 25 percent as hospitals, labs, and other facilities hire to replace aging workers. This rate of growth is much faster than most occupations.

The BLS publishes state-specific information and a map of the states showing the states with the highest employment of phlebotomists (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319097.htm#st).

Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics on July 10, 2019

How much can a phlebotomist expect to make?

The amount you can expect to earn depends on several conditions:

  • Where you live
  • The type of facility you work in
  • Your experience as a phlebotomist
  • Whether or not you are certified as a phlebotomist

Annual wages for phlebotomists in May 2018 range from $25,020 to $49,060. The median salary (the one right in the middle of the range) is $34,480. This means that about half of phlebotomists make less than $34,480 and half make more. These salaries are based on full-time work or 2,080 hours per year.

 

Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics on July 10, 2019

The type of facility where you work will also make a difference. According to the BLS, the work locations with the highest levels of employment for phlebotomists include:

Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics on July 10, 2019

This employment information means that you will likely have more success in finding a phlebotomy job in one of those locations.

However, those locations are NOT where you can get paid the most. The top paying types of work locations for phlebotomists include:

Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics on July 10, 2019

Before you get too excited about these high-paying jobs, you should also note that the number of jobs (the Employment column) in these work locations are very low. Only the most experienced phlebotomists are likely to get these positions.

Salary.com also collects salary information that is more current than the information from BLS. According to that site, phlebotomist salary information as of April through June 2019 includes:

State

Average Salary

Salary Range

Alabama

$31,837

$28,678 to $35,561

Alaska

$38,258

$34,461 to $42,733

Arizona

$33,790

$30,434 to $37,742

Arkansas

$30,931

$28,282 to $35,073

California

$38,124

$34,338 to $42,584

Colorado

$34,029

$30,649 to $38,009

Connecticut

$37,118

$33,436 to $41,462

Delaware

$36,279

$32,679 to $40,524

Florida

$32,766

$29,512 to $36,598

Georgia

$32,937

$29,666 to $36,789

Hawaii

$35,387

$31,875 to $39,526

Idaho

$32,214

$28,330 to $35,130

Illinois

$35,165

$31,673 to $39,278

Indiana

$33,346

$30,035 to $37,247

Iowa

$31,226

$28,127 to $34,878

Kansas

$31,957

$28,783 to $35,695

Kentucky

$30,985

$27,910 to $34,610

Louisiana

$31,523

$28,394 to $35,210

Maine

$32,147

$28,958 to $35,909

Maryland

$35,462

$31,941 to $39,610

Massachusetts

$37,066

$32,904 to $40,803

Michigan

$34,472

$31,409 to $38,505

Minnesota

$34,749

$31,300 to $38,814

Mississippi

$29,605

$26,665 to $33,067

Missouri

$32,425

$29,205 to $36,217

Montana

$30,140

$27,150 to $33,667

Nebraska

$30,902

$27,835 to $34,517

Nevada

$35,090

$31,607 to $39,194

New Hampshire

$35,182

$31,690 to $39,296

New Jersey

$38,323

$34,520 to $42,807

New Mexico

$31,042

$27,959 to $34,673

New York

$41,299

$37,197 to $46,129

North Carolina

$32,561

$29,327 to $36,370

North Dakota

$30,776

$27,721 to $34,375

Ohio

$33,278

$29,973 to $37,170

Oklahoma

$31,179

$28,086 to $34,828

Oregon

$33,532

$30,205 to $37,456

Pennsylvania

$34,063

$30,680 to $38,047

Rhode Island

$35,908

$32,344 to $40,107

South Carolina

$31,672

$28,527 to $35,377

South Dakota

$29,056

$26,173 to $32,456

Tennessee

$31,008

$27,929 to $34,635

Texas

$33,448

$30,127 to $37,361

Utah

$32,277

$29,073 to $36,052

Vermont

$32,868

$29,604 to $36,713

Virginia

$33,595

$30,259 to $37,525

Washington

$36,384

$32,773 to $40,640

Washington DC

$37,823

$34,071 to $42,250

West Virginia

$30,929

$27,860 to $34,549

Wisconsin

$33,557

$30,226 to $37,482

Wyoming

$30,950

$27,878 to $34,570

Data Retrieved from Salary.com on July 10, 2019

Before you make plans to move to Alaska, New York, or California for the higher salary, remember that higher salaries usually mean a higher cost of living in the area. However, this chart should give you a good idea of what might be considered a fair salary in your state.

Next Steps

Now that you know about being a certified phlebotomist, it is time to think about the next steps:

  1. First, if you do not have a high school diploma or GED, get one! All states require that minimum level of education. If you are not 18 yet, you may have to wait since many states have a minimum age requirement.
  2. Decide where you want to work. If you plan to move to another state to work, do your research and know the regulations in that state. The state board of health website is a good place to start when doing research.
  3. Look for a good phlebotomy program. Do you have one close to you where you can get a classroom education?Alternatively, does an online program better fit your lifestyle?
  4. Remember, if you live in a state with reduced or free tuition, find out if a phlebotomy course is covered. Otherwise, you will want to be sure you know how you will pay for your course.
  5. Apply for positions at local hospitals, labs, and doctor’s offices. Often, an employer will help to pay for your phlebotomy education. A hospital may also offer phlebotomy training for its employees.

You are joining an occupation with good pay and a great outlook for employment potential. Good luck as you begin what will be a great career for you!

Eileen

Master's prepared Registered Nurse with 30+ years of clinical experience.

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