Education and Training Requirements

High School

Biology, chemistry, and other science courses are essential if you want to become a cytotechnologist. In addition, math, English, and computer literacy classes are also important. You should also take the courses necessary to fulfill the entrance requirements of the college or university you plan to attend.

Postsecondary Training

There are two options for becoming a cytotechnologist. The first involves earning a bachelor's degree in biology, medical technology, life sciences, or a related field, then entering a one- or two-year, postbaccalaureate certificate program offered by an accredited hospital or university.

The second option involves transferring into a cytotechnology program during your junior or senior year of college. Students on this track earn a bachelor of science degree in cytotechnology. In both cases, you would earn a college degree and complete at least one year of training devoted to cytotechnology.

The courses you will take include chemistry, biology, and math. Some programs also require their students to take business and computer classes as well.

More than 20 postsecondary cytotechnology programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Visit for a complete list of programs.

Other Education or Training

It is important that practicing cytotechnologists remain current with new ideas, techniques, and medical discoveries. Many professional associations provide continuing education (CE) programs to help cytotechnologists keep their skills and knowledge up to date. For example, the American Society for Cytotechnology offers webinars such as Error Reduction in the Cytopathology Laboratory, Cell Blocks in Cytopathology, and Unlocking Horns: Solutions for Managing Conflict. It also provides a Cytopreparation Online Course, which serves as a primer for students who are interested in the field. Course chapters include Specimen Receipt, Specimen Preparation, Staining Theory and Purpose, Equipment Orientation, Troubleshooting Common Problems, Quality Control Documentation, Lab Safety, and Fine Needle Aspiration Collection and Slide Preparation. The American Society for Clinical Pathology and American Society of Cytopathology also offer CE opportunities. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Cytotechnology graduates (from either degree programs or certificate programs) may register for the certification examination given by the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Most states require cytotechnologists to be certified, and most employers insist that new employees be certified. Certification is usually a requirement for advancement in the field.

A number of states also require that personnel working in laboratories be licensed. It will be necessary for you to check the licensing requirements of the state in which you hope to work. The state's department of health or board of occupational licensing can provide you with this information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

After completing college (and, ideally, an internship), cytotechnologists receive their training in health care settings.

If you wish to enter the field of cytotechnology you should be detail-oriented, a good observer, and decisive. You should enjoy working alone, but you must also have the ability to work as a team member. It is essential that you are able to follow directions and have the ability to concentrate. Good writing, reporting, and organizational skills are also important. You also need good analytical skills to evaluate laboratory specimens under a microscope and determine whether they are normal, pre-cancerous or malignant. Cytotechnologists are often expected to sit at a stationary laboratory bench for long periods of time.