Histologic Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Biology, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science courses are necessary to develop the preliminary technical skills needed for histotechnology programs. Classes in communication, such as speech and English, are also helpful to build your written and verbal skills. 

Postsecondary Training

You can become a histologic technician with a high school diploma and on-the-job training, but a college degree or other formal training is becoming more generally recommended.

You can enter the field with an associate's degree from an accredited college or university and participation in supervised, hands-on experience in clinical settings. You may also prepare for the profession through a one- or two-year certificate program at an accredited institution, such as a hospital. These programs combine classroom studies along with clinical and laboratory experience. Visit https://www.nsh.org/learn/histology-schools for a list of schools that offer training in histotechnology. 

Other Education or Training

The National Society for Histotechnology (NSH), in collaboration with the Digital Pathology Association, offers an online, self-paced digital pathology certificate program "to increase competency and improve knowledge in whole slide imaging and digital pathology." The program consists of the following learning modules: An Introduction & History of Digital Pathology; Basics of the Technology Module; Use Cases for Digital Pathology Module; Selecting and Implementing a Digital Pathology Solution Module; Workflow Considerations & Best Practice Standards; Image Analysis; and Regulatory Requirements & Validations. Visit https://www.nsh.org/learn/pathology-certificate for more information. 

Other Education or Training

The NSH offers laboratory webinars and other continuing education opportunities. Contact the organization for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification is not required for entry-level histologic technicians, but it can aid in your hiring and the advancement of your career. In fact, studies by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) find that certified lab professionals earn more than non-certified lab professionals. The ASCP's Board of Certification is the main certifying organization for professions in laboratory medicine. Applicants can qualify for the Board of Certification exam in two ways: They can complete an accredited program in histotechnology within five years of applying to take the exam or earn an associate's degree from an accredited college or university and combine it with one year of full-time work experience in a histopathology lab. Visit https://www.ascp.org/content/board-of-certification/get-credentialed for more information. 

Some states also require that all laboratory personnel be licensed; contact your state's department of health for requirements.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Histologic technicians who are just starting their careers usually train while on the job. Those who work for hospitals or diagnostic labs might participate in formal technician-training programs. Certification isn't required but can boost employment opportunities as well as the pay.

To be a successful histologic technician, you should be patient, attentive to detail, and be able to concentrate well under pressure when necessary. Knowledge of complex machinery is also required. Good color vision and manual dexterity are important for the meticulous work involved. Some laboratory work can also be repetitive, requiring technicians to perform the same part of a procedure all day long. Finally, you must be honest and willing to admit mistakes made, because people's lives may depend on how well you do your job.

Technicians must be compassionate in dealing with patients who may be in pain or having emotional stress. They may also be on their feet for long periods of time while collecting samples, so stamina is also helpful in getting through the day.