Clinical Lab Sciences

There are many pieces to the clinical lab scientist training program application, including your GPA, personal statement, list of experiences, letters of recommendation, and biographical information. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing for a clinical lab scientist training program.

What is a Clinical Lab Scientist?

Becoming a Clinical Lab Scientist

Academic Preparation

Experiences

Applying to CLS Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

 



What is a Clinical Lab Scientist?

  • Clinical (or Medical) Laboratory Scientists work with pathologists, other physicians, and scientists who specialize in clinical chemistry, microbiology, or other biological sciences. Together, they detect, diagnose, and treat many patient diseases. As part of this health care team, Clinical Laboratory Scientists are responsible for performing tests and developing data on the patient's blood tissues and body fluids. They have the knowledge of the principles behind these tests, the ability to recognize physiological conditions affecting test results, and the ability to develop data that may be used by a physician in determining the presence, extent, and the cause of disease.
  • In addition to working in a clinical laboratory, jobs for clinical laboratory scientists are available in departments of public health, industrial labs, pharmaceutical companies, the armed forces, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Clinical laboratory scientist licenses may be general (for all areas of the clinical lab), or limited to performing procedures in one particular area (clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, immunohematology, and toxicology).

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Becoming a Clinical Lab Scientist

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Before starting a training program, you obtain a Trainee License through the California Department of Public Health. This license permits you to train, not work, as a licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist. 

To obtain a trainee license, you must have a bachelor's degree and must have completed the following coursework:

  • 16 semester or equivalent quarter units of chemistry, which must include clinical chemistry OR analytical and biochemistry.
  • 18 semester or equivalent quarter units of biology, which must include hematology, immunology, and medical microbiology.
  • 3 semester or equivalent quarter units of physics (light and electricity)

Visit the California Department of Public Health to apply for a trainee license. 

CLS Training Programs
  • Most training programs in California are run by universities (e.g. UCs, CSUs, Loma Linda) and take place in hospitals; some programs are run by the hospitals where training occurs, and others by private companies (e.g. Blood Source). 
  • Training programs are 12 months. 
CLS License

After completing a training program, candidates are eligible to take a national exam to be a certified Clinical Laboratory Scientist. 

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Academic Preparation

Myth: If I'm going to get a C- in a class, I should intentionally get a D or F in that class in order to retake it for a better grade.

Fact: Do not fail a class on purpose in order to retake it for a better grade. Even though the lower grade will not be included in your UC Davis GPA, it will remain on your transcript and most centralized applications will count that first grade into your application GPA.

Additionally, the health profession schools will still see it. It is better to have a C- in the course and improve through other courses in the same discipline than to take a D or F.

Most health professional schools require all prerequisites to be completed with a C or higher. Although you cannot repeat the C- at UC Davis, you will need to repeat it somewhere else either over a summer or after graduation.

If you need to discuss this or any other academic difficulty futher, please make an appointment with a staff advisor. 

CLS Prerequisite Courses at UC Davis

  • General chemistry: CHE 2ABC
  • Physics: PHY 7ABC
  • Biochemistry: BIS 105 (or 102 + 103)
  • Medical Microbiology: PMI 127
  • Immunology: MMI 188 or PMI 126
  • Hematology: UCD Extension Course
  • Human Anatomy: EXB 106 (or CHA 101)
  • Physiology: NPB 101
  • Genetics: BIS 101
  • Statistics: STA 100
  • Mycology: MMI 130 or PLB 148
  • Virology: MIC 162
  • Parasitology: ENT 156

Note that the above information is only a guide and programs may change their required prerequisites at any time.

  • Although no particular undergraduate major is required, some schools prefer students majoring in one of the biological sciences or chemistry. As long as all prerequisites are met, any major may be chosen.
  • Prerequisites and minimum GPAs differ by program.

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Experiences

Myth: I can do a lot of meaningful experiences to make up for a weaker GPA.

Fact:  Having many meaningful activities will NOT make up for a low GPA.

You must focus on your grades during your undergraduate years, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experience. It is better to graduate from UC Davis with a higher GPA and less experiences than lots of experiences but a low GPA. 

  • Each CLS program has a set of "Essential Functions" that are expected of their CLS students. Applicants should have good laboratory technique, strong critical thinking skills, the ability to work under stressful conditions, and a professional attitude. Any experiences that you have had that can demonstrate these skills will make you a stronger applicant.
  • Laboratory experience is essential in building and demonstrating your laboratory skills and abilities and can be gained through working in a college laboratory, research laboratory, or volunteering in a hospital-based clinical laboratory.

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Applying to CLS Programs

Standardized Exam
  • The GRE is not required for CLS programs. 
Personal Statement
  • Explain your interest in a career in clinical lab sciences. 
Letters of Recommendation
  • Programs require three letters of recommendations from either professors or employers; many require two to be from instructors. Some schools also require letter writers to complete a form in which they should be able to address familiarity, the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, the applicant’s ability to do independent work, and the applicant’s profile (e.g., reliability, emotional control, laboratory skills, etc.). 
Interviews
  • Most programs require personal interviews prior to acceptance into clinical training. Some will contact you directly to schedule your interview, while other require that you request an interview. 
Choosing Programs
  • There are 227 accredited CLS programs in the nation as of October 2015. In California, there are thirteen CSL programs with ten nationally approved programs and 3 CA-only approved programs, including those at CSU Los Angeles, Physician’s Automated Lab, and Children’s Hospital Central California. 
  • Each program varies in terms of minimum GPA, prerequisites, class size, tuition/fees, etc. When selecting programs to apply to, be sure to take these factors into consideration as you may not need to pay any tuition for some, while others can be much more costly. Also, while programs typically last for only a year, there are a couple of programs that may last longer.
  • If you have any questions in regards to selecting programs, please come see an advisor at Health Professions Advising.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can the microbiology prerequisite be fulfilled by an intro microbiology class (e.g., MIC 101)?
No; programs require that it be a medical microbiology courses. UC Davis students should take PMI 127 to fulfill the prerequisite.
Who should write me letters of recommendation?
Letter writers should understand and be able to attest your abilities and skills. The LOR can be written by an instructor or professor; though some programs do require that two of the three letters are written by professors. Letter writers who can attest to your laboratory skills and science abilities are generally preferred.
Is there a required standardized exam?
No.
What degree is required and is there a preferred major?
Requirements for becoming a nationally-certified and California-licensed clinical laboratory scientist include a bachelor's degree with courses pertinent to the clinical laboratory. No particular undergraduate major is required; although, some schools prefer students majoring in one of the biological sciences or chemistry fields. However, as long as all prerequisites are met, any major may be chosen.
Can I take online courses?

Some online courses are acceptable; however, students should take any courses that includes a lab section in-person. Before registering for any course not listed above, it is advisable to verify acceptability for the course with a program representative.

Please note that Laboratory Field Services, the California agency under the California Department of Public Health (CDPH-LFS) that issues the CLS Trainee Licenses (TRL), will not accept the following courses from Weber State University if completed after June 1, 2014:

  • MLS 5810, 5103, 5104 Clinical Microbiology

  • MLS 5101 Clinical Chemistry

Can I apply while still taking courses?
Yes, but proof of enrollment must typically be included in the application. Students should finish all courses before entering the program. Please check with each program you plan to apply to before applying and check when all courses must be completed by.
Is work experience in a clinical laboratory required?
No, but due to the requirement of strong laboratory skills, work experience in a clinical laboratory or a similar environment is generally recommended. However, experience in a research or university laboratory is acceptable as well. Possible work experiences include working as a laboratory technician, laboratory assistant, phlebotomist, and/or volunteering in a clinical laboratory.