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September 2010: Volume 36, Number 9

CLS Programs Hold Steady despite Worker Shortages

New data released by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) found that the number of universities and hospitals offering accredited programs for medical technologists (MT), clinical laboratory technologists (CLT), clinical laboratory scientists (CLS), and medical laboratory technicians (MLT) has remained relatively stable over the past five years. The economy and lack of faculty and clinical sites continue to be the biggest challenges for medical laboratory science education.

“The number of accredited programs that have closed or have been eliminated has leveled off,” said Paula Garrott, EdM, CLS (NCA), associate professor emeritus, at the University of Illinois at Springfield, adding that the programs that continue to thrive are ones that have administrative support for clinical laboratory science education and strong academic and clinical partnerships.


Garrott stresses that the successful programs have acknowledged the significant shortage of students entering the field. These programs have found creative ways to meet this challenge by creating student recruitment activities and adopting alternative delivery strategies including online and blended curriculum.

The data also highlight that in 1988 there were more than 450 CLS programs in the U.S. but by 2009 that number dropped to less than 250 programs. The main reasons for the decline include the high cost of the programs, shortage of skilled facility, and lack of hands-on experience in the clinical laboratory.

In 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 14,000 annual vacancies in the clinical laboratory field, yet only 5,000 students graduate each year from accredited programs, worsening the gap.

On a positive note, in 2005 universities offered 475 accredited programs and in 2009 that number slightly increased to 507. Illinois, Michigan, and Texas offer the largest number of accredited programs according to the report. Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado have the smallest number of the accredited programs. The data are available online. 

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