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What is a Histotechnologist?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A histotechnologist is someone who specializes in preparing tissue samples for examination. These samples may be animal or human in origin, and histotechnologists can be found working in environments like pathology laboratories, hospitals, veterinary facilities, and research institutions. Employment prospects in this field vary, depending on the area in which someone wishes to work, and the level of training which he or she has received.

To become a histotechnologist, people usually obtain a bachelor's degree in the sciences, supplementing with additional training in microscopy, tissue handling, and related topics. In some regions, a histotechnologist may need to be licensed by a government agency or professional organization, and in other areas, it may be possible to simply apply for work in a lab after completing school. People who view histotechnology as a career usually belong to professional organizations so that they can keep up with advances in the field, and they may attend conferences, subscribe to trade journals, and engage in other enrichment activities.

Some histotechnologists perform basic microscopy to identify areas of interest for examination by a pathologist.
Some histotechnologists perform basic microscopy to identify areas of interest for examination by a pathologist.

The critical aspect of a histotechnologist's work is preparing samples for examination, and preserving samples. He or she may freeze, dry, or perform other processes to get samples ready for examination, in addition to fixing and staining them on slides and setting up microscopes. Some histotechnologists also perform basic microscopy to identify areas of interest for examination by a pathologist. Other job responsibilities can include writing up results, organizing samples in storage, maintaining protocol to keep the lab safe and clean, and maintaining lab equipment.

Histotechnologists must know how to recognize a number of diseases and conditions.
Histotechnologists must know how to recognize a number of diseases and conditions.

In some cases, a histotechnologist needs to be able to work under pressure. For example, a surgeon may take a biopsy during surgery, waiting on pathology results to decide what to do in the surgery, or a histotechnologist might be part of a team responding to an outbreak of disease, in which case he or she would need to move quickly to keep information current and relevant to other members of the team.

Histotechnologists specialize in preparing various types of tissue samples for examination.
Histotechnologists specialize in preparing various types of tissue samples for examination.

Working conditions for a histotechnologist can vary. Usually long hours need to be spend standing up, and a histotechnologist is also routinely exposed to infectious and potentially dangerous material, especially in high security labs which handle specimens of unknown or dangerous diseases. The hours are usually very regular, since labs have specific operating hours, and a high degree of precision and coordination is required to work successfully in a lab environment, as is a team attitude to keep the lab functioning smoothly and to encourage cooperation.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

elizabeth23

@aaaCookie, I especially think that is true for things like histopathology because they do not actually require medical degrees. I had a good friend in college who was pursuing a degree in biology, and she was originally considering medical school. When she decided against that, however, she completely switched courses away from medicine.

If people studying biology in general were more aware, though, of the many ways in which a person can pursue medicine and help people without actually being a doctor, more people would not be interested in positions like this.

aaaCookie

This sounds like one of the many little-known medical careers that most people don't know very much about; at least, I had never really heard of this before. I think it is unfortunate, actually, that there are so many roles in the medical field which are mostly unknown, considering that many economists and career advisers consider medical professions to be one of the most solid parts of the job market these days.

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    • Some histotechnologists perform basic microscopy to identify areas of interest for examination by a pathologist.
      By: nandyphotos
      Some histotechnologists perform basic microscopy to identify areas of interest for examination by a pathologist.
    • Histotechnologists must know how to recognize a number of diseases and conditions.
      By: kasto
      Histotechnologists must know how to recognize a number of diseases and conditions.
    • Histotechnologists specialize in preparing various types of tissue samples for examination.
      By: spflaum
      Histotechnologists specialize in preparing various types of tissue samples for examination.
    • A histotechnologist may create microscope slides using body tissue collected by doctors from ill patients.
      By: oneblink1
      A histotechnologist may create microscope slides using body tissue collected by doctors from ill patients.
    • Histotechnologists may work in a pathology laboratory.
      By: diego cervo
      Histotechnologists may work in a pathology laboratory.