How to Become A Phlebotomist

How to Become A Phlebotomist
Cian
Last updated at September 2, 2021

Skilled phlebotomists are highly appreciated. Not only by patients but also by their co-workers. These health care experts draw blood from a patient’s body while making it hurt as little as possible. Want to learn how to become a phlebotomist and how much they make? Keep reading below.

Becoming a phlebotomist takes effort, but it is one of the few ways you can become a health care professional in a short amount of time and see if you like working as one. Phlebotomists receive good compensation for their expertise and also get the opportunity to move to better-paying roles.

Furthermore, these experts are always in demand, so finding a job after earning the right qualifications shouldn’t be difficult.

This article outlines how to become a phlebotomist, what phlebotomists do, how much they earn, and how to become a phlebotomist.

What is a Phlebotomist?

Most of us recognize phlebotomy technicians as the clinical experts who collect blood samples. These technicians work with people from all walks of life at hospitals, physician’s offices, clinical laboratories, and any healthcare setting that may require drawing blood.

Typically, phlebotomists work full-time shifts and, depending on the workplace, may be required to work on weekends or holidays. In addition, some phlebotomy roles require the technicians to travel on call or take emergency calls on weeknights or weekends.

What Does a Phlebotomist Do?

There’s much more to being a phlebotomist than collecting blood samples. A phlebotomy career involves doing tasks like:

  • Ensuring proper sanitation
  • Performing phlebotomy safely 
  • Ensuring the samples match the order
  • Making sure samples are stored and labeled correctly
  • Keeping patients comfortable and safe when drawing blood

Approved phlebotomy programs teach you the skills that are critical to the job. However, knowing what to do is different from being comfortable doing it.

If you want to succeed as a phlebotomist, you need to consider if you’re comfortable with all the job entails. There’s a chance that you may not be the right kind of person to become a phlebotomist – which can be challenging to realize. 

How Much Does a Phlebotomist Make?

Per the latest report by the BLS, phlebotomists make an average annual salary of $36,320. The top 10% of phlebotomists earn a salary of upwards of $50,740 yearly.

Outpatient care centers and clinical laboratories pay the highest phlebotomist salary. Hospitals and ambulatory health care services usually pay phlebotomists less.

The demand for phlebotomists has never been higher, with the BLS stipulating a 17% growth in demand over the next decade. Thus, phlebotomists will be in demand for the foreseeable future, and finding a job shouldn’t be difficult for newly qualified professionals.

The BLS also reports that phlebotomists get paid the best salaries in California, New York, the District of Columbia, Alaska, and Washington. So, if you’re open to moving to another state for better job prospects, moving to one of these states may be your best bet.

The following section highlights the qualities of good phlebotomy technicians so you can gain better insight into the demands of the job.

Should You Become A Phlebotomy Technician?

Becoming a phlebotomist can be an excellent career choice. Phlebotomists are compensated well and often offer the comfort patients need when blood needs to be drawn. Patient appreciation can make the job satisfying and fulfilling. 

That said, you must ensure that a career in phlebotomy fits right with your personality type. Being comfortable with the job is the only way to excel in it.

Phlebotomy technicians use various venipuncture techniques to collect blood. The phlebotomy program you attend will teach you all you need to know. Still, before you enroll, you must ensure that you’re comfortable working with needles and can keep your composure when collecting and transporting the samples.

To become a phlebotomist, you also need to:

  • Remain Team-Oriented: The only way for a health care facility to function is for the medical staff to work well as a big team. Likewise, phlebotomists must work well with people to ensure that patients receive the highest quality of care possible.
  • Multi-Task: A clinical laboratory can be a busy place. Doctors, nurses, and patients rely on the blood work results for the diagnosis and subsequent treatment. For this reason, phlebotomists are required to multi-task to meet tight deadlines.
  • Maintain Composure And Deftness: A phlebotomist will draw blood several times a day from many patients. Phlebotomy technicians need to maintain their composure and have excellent hand-eye coordination so they can draw blood correctly in the first attempt. Poor hand-eye coordination can extend the process and cause patients to feel pain or discomfort.
  • Pay Attention To Detail: Drawing blood is only one part of the job. In a clinical laboratory, phlebotomists must track the samples and feed the corresponding data into databases. If a phlebotomist fails to pay attention to detail, vials may be lost or misplaced. It may also lead to patient injury. Maintaining cleanliness and organization is vital to avoid confusion and complications.

How to Become a Phlebotomist?

If you’re considering starting a career in phlebotomy, you will need to earn the right qualifications. However, you do not need to get a traditional college education to become one.

Depending on the phlebotomy program you enroll into, it will take a year or even less for you to become a phlebotomist. Most phlebotomy programs take less than a year to complete, while some take as little as eight weeks.

Programs offered by vocational schools are typically shorter, whereas programs offered by community colleges can take longer. Completing both instructional and clinical hours of the program you enroll in is a prerequisite to earning a diploma and subsequently a certification. Medical facilities prefer hiring phlebotomists with national certification.

Typically, phlebotomists apply for getting certified right after getting their diploma. This is because most national certification tests have time limitations that disqualify a phlebotomist from writing the examination. Pursuing a national certification takes a few more months to complete.

Some states require phlebotomy students to pass additional certification requirements before allowing them to begin practicing. This prolongs the process of getting qualified further.

That said, most states require phlebotomists to get certified before they can begin practicing. Therefore, it is possible for you to start working as a phlebotomist in less than a year, granted you enroll in a quicker-paced program.

Step #1: Graduate High School (Four Years)

One of the best things about pursuing a career as a phlebotomist is that earning a college degree is not required. A high school diploma makes you eligible for enrolling in a phlebotomy course.

However, earning a high school diploma equivalent GED also makes you eligible for enrolling in a program. Most programs are designed to be enrolled into after graduating high school. Taking courses in health, psychology, and science in high school can make it easier for you to learn phlebotomy.

Step #2: Enroll Into An Accredited Phlebotomy Program 

After you earn your high school diploma or GED, you can enroll in an accredited phlebotomy program. Some people enroll in programs right as they become eligible after high school, while others enter these programs as adults.

Enrollment requirements vary from state to state. However, besides having a high school diploma or a GED, you will be asked to:

  • Fill out an application
  • Submit immunization records
  • Pass a background check
  • Submit your diploma and CPR certification

You must ensure that you join a National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) approved program.

There are over 60 approved programs offered nationwide, and enrolling in an approved program ensures that you receive the highest quality of education.

If you get accepted, you will be asked to pay the tuition costs and fees, including the costs of the textbooks and a uniform. 

If you decide to drop out of the program after enrolling, a withdrawal fee is typically charged.

Step #3: Complete The Program (8 Weeks – 1 Year)

Before earning a phlebotomy certificate and getting a high-salary job, you must complete a phlebotomy program. The programs include both classroom training and hands-on training.

You will learn about your duties and responsibilities, venipuncture methods, and labeling and storage techniques. You will also learn about medical standards and codes and patient health and safety. Completing the hands-on training will give you the minimum 40 hours of experience you need to become a phlebotomist. 

These programs are offered by vocational schools and community colleges. They typically involve education about anatomy, medical terminology, and physiology. The best way to find colleges is to find the approved programs available in your state at the NAACLS website.

Step #4: Get Certified

Completing the program can feel like the most vital step in the process of becoming a phlebotomist. However, depending on the state you’re in and your career goals, getting certified can be just as important. 

Earning a professional phlebotomy certification increases employability and also gives you greater insight into phlebotomy. To be eligible for a national certification exam, you are required to:

  • Obtain a high school diploma or GED;
  • Hold a valid CPR certification;
  • Complete a phlebotomy program; and 
  • Complete the required clinical training hours.

The fees for taking tests offered by reputed certification agencies range from $58 to $200. Furthermore, the test format and length vary from agency to agency. 

For instance, the certification test offered by the National Center for Competency Testing comprises 125 questions and 25 additional unscored pre-test evaluation items. The test is three hours long, and students may be asked to demonstrate skills like venipuncture practically. Other tests can be shorter and may comprise up to 300 questions. 

You can get certified at three levels:

  1. Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT): You are certified to perform skin puncture blood collection.
  2. Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I): You are certified to perform skin puncture and venipuncture blood collection
  3. Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II): You are certified to perform skin puncture, venipuncture, and arterial puncture blood collection.

Step #5: Maintain Your Certification

You can begin practicing after getting your certification; however, you must meet the continuing certification requirements annually. The requirements and fees vary from agency to agency.

Furthermore, states may have unique regulations and requirements for continuing education that you will need to meet to continue practicing. That said, typically, a phlebotomist is required to complete only six credit hours every year for maintaining their certification status.

You can take the required classes at a local vocational school or community college or even online. However, most phlebotomists complete their continuing education certificate requirements at the program they got certified at.

Some agencies, such as the National Phlebotomy Association, also require you to pass an exam on renewing your certification. 

Maintaining your certification demonstrates your dedication to maintaining the quality of work continually. In addition, meeting the knowledge standards set by a third-party agency makes you an attractive hire. Further, the BLS reports that certified phlebotomists have better job prospects and get paid a higher salary.

Pursuing continuing education often results in job growth, so make sure you take the time to maintain your qualifications.

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Certifying Agencies And Qualification Criteria

The requirements for becoming a phlebotomist are flexible. This allows individuals from any background to pursue a career in phlebotomy as long as they can demonstrate the knowledge and skill required for the job. 

You can get a phlebotomy certification from one of the following certifying agencies:

American Certification Agency (ACA)

Getting the ACA’s phlebotomy certification requires one year of experience in phlebotomy. In addition, it requires the completion of a phlebotomy training program or a certification from a clinical laboratory or hospital. You are also required to pass a certification exam. 

American Medical Technologists (AMT) 

To become eligible to give the American Medical Technologists certification exam, you will have to either:

  1. Complete a program with 120 hours of classroom training; or
  2. Complete 1,040 hours of phlebotomy work over three years at a recognized facility. 

In addition, you are required to have carried out 50 venipunctures and ten skin punctures to meet the certification requirements. On earning the certification, you will be awarded the designation of Registered Phlebotomy Technician (RPT).

National Phlebotomy Association (NPA) 

Unlike the AMT that requires you to do 1,040 hours of training, you can take the NPA’s phlebotomy certification exam if you hold a GED or high school diploma. In addition, you will need to pass drug and alcohol tests and have an interview with the founder of NPA. 

National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) 

To be eligible for the designation of National Certified Phlebotomy Technician (NCPT), you are required to have completed phlebotomy technician training in the military at any point in the last five years. Applying for their certification exam costs $135.

American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) 

The American Society for Clinical Pathology offers seven different routes to become a Phlebotomy Technician. Furthermore, the organization also allows nurses and lab technicians to become a phlebotomist. Getting the education and certification can help professionals in those roles with job growth.

National Healthcareer Association (NHA) 

Like the ASCP, the NHA is an agency that helps individuals who already do phlebotomy in a medical profession but aren’t certified. You can become an NHA Certified Phlebotomy Technician if you have one year of phlebotomy experience. In addition, you are required to have done at least 30 venipunctures and ten capillary sticks.

American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) 

The ASPT allows professionals with six months of full-time or one year of part-time experience to earn a phlebotomy certification. To become a CBT, you will need to complete a training program and performance at least five skin and 75 venipunctures.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a phlebotomist?

Phlebotomy programs are much shorter than traditional degree programs, lasting between one and two semesters. So, you can expect to complete a program in a span of four or eight months, depending on the program you join.

What is the most challenging part of being a phlebotomist?

Phlebotomy requires attention to detail, calm composure, and excellent communication skills. It’s far from an easy 9-to-5. Every patient presents unique challenges that can sometimes make phlebotomy difficult. Sometimes, communication across units isn’t as straightforward as it could be.

Does it pay better to become a CNA rather than a phlebotomist?

According to the BLS, CNAs make an average annual salary of $30,830. On the other hand, the average salary for a phlebotomist is $36,320.

How much does it cost to attend a phlebotomy program?

Phlebotomy training programs cost between $700 and $3,000 to attend. You must remember that certification costs need to be borne separately. Tests cost between $90 and $200 to take and obtaining a license costs between $58 and $200. 

Conclusion

While an excellent career choice in and of itself, becoming a phlebotomist can be a stepping stone to working in more rewarding positions in the medical field. In addition, since phlebotomists work in many different areas, it is often easier for them to find jobs compared to other certified medical professionals.

Your next step after becoming a phlebotomist would be to consider careers that involve what you’ve learned. Starting a career in nursing or becoming an assistant or technician and earning a higher salary shouldn’t be very challenging.

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