5 Steps to Becoming a Phlebotomist

8 Min Read Published March 8, 2024
How to become a phlebotomist

If you’re looking for a hands-on career in healthcare and you want to start quickly, then read on to learn how to become a phlebotomist. It may just be the right choice for you. 

Phlebotomists are the medical professionals responsible for drawing patients’ blood or specimen samples. They’re in high demand, and if you’re considering moving into other areas within healthcare, you'll find that phlebotomy provides an excellent springboard into the field.

What Is a Phlebotomist? 

A phlebotomist is an allied healthcare professional who has been educated and trained in all aspects of venipuncture (procedures involving drawing blood) and its processes. 

Sometimes, a blood draw is needed so that physicians can diagnose or rule out a specific medical condition or evaluate the effectiveness of a patient’s medication. Sometimes, blood specimens are needed by insurance companies to assess a patient’s health status, and sometimes, blood or plasma is collected to save others’ lives. 

Whatever the reason, skilled phlebotomists are responsible for ensuring that the process is done in a safe and sanitary way, that samples match medical orders and are correctly labeled and stored, and that patients are comfortable throughout the process. 

Their job responsibilities may include: 

  1. Adhere to all health and safety standards 
  2. Assist with blood transfusions
  3. Collect blood using sterilized needles, vials, and other equipment
  4. Confirming patient identities and personal information
  5. Identifying the correct venipuncture method for the patient based on age, health condition, and more
  6. Identifying the optimal draw site for puncture
  7. Labeling samples and storing for delivery to testing site or blood bank
  8. Obtaining billing information, including copies of insurance cards and other information
  9. Practicing infection control standards when working with patients and equipment
  10. Preparing patients before drawing blood
  11. Reassuring patients and explaining the process, as well as answering any questions about the process
  12. Recording pertinent information and obtaining patient authorizations for insurance purposes
  13. Reviewing their daily appointments in order to have all supplies necessary to meet patient needs
  14. Working with supervising the medical team

We Found The Following Schools with Online Phlebotomy Programs

How to Become a Phlebotomist 

The requirements to become a phlebotomist vary from state to state, but in most cases, completion of a phlebotomy certification is required. 

Phlebotomy programs are normally offered at technical and vocational schools and community colleges, and they generally take less than a year to complete.

Once the student has graduated, they are eligible to take a professional certification exam. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to become a phlebotomist.

Step 1: Graduate From High School or Earn a GED

One of the most appealing parts of this career is that you can work in it without a college degree. Typically a high school diploma or GED is all that’s required to enroll. 

Step 2: Apply to an Accredited Phlebotomy Program 

Though some people pursue a degree immediately after high school, many others enter programs as adults after taking a break from schooling or exploring other careers. 

Phlebotomy programs will usually require the following:

  • Filling out an application
  • Proof of having graduated and having earned a minimum GPA
  • Immunization records
  • CPR certification
  • passing a background check. 

It’s helpful to have taken science-based classes, as many of the courses you will take in school will focus on anatomy and medical terminology. 

Step 3: Complete a Phlebotomy Program

Phlebotomy programs generally take about a year to complete, though some students can complete their program in less time. These programs include both classwork and hands-on training. 

Coursework will provide valuable information on the phlebotomists’ role, the standards and codes that need to be adhered to, blood sample collection methods, site collection, labeling and storage, and patient health and safety. 

Hands-on training will provide a minimum of 40 hours of practical experience. 

Step 4: Earn a Certificate

There are three levels of certification that a phlebotomy program can offer. These are: 

  • Limited Phlebotomy Technician (LPT) – Authorized to perform skin puncture blood collection
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician I (CPT I) – Authorized to perform skin puncture and venipuncture blood collection
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician II (CPT II) – Authorized to perform skin puncture, venipuncture and arterial puncture blood collection 

Step 5: Take the Certification Exam

Upon earning your diploma and certification, your next step is to take the certification exam, which requires completion of a phlebotomy program, on-the-job experience, and proof of experience in performing venipunctures, skin punctures, and observation of arterial punctures. 

National certification is available from multiple agencies, but state certification is required in California, Washington, Nevada, and Louisiana. Certification Agencies include:

  • American Certification Agency (ACA)
  • American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
  • National Center for Competency Testing/Multi-skilled Medical Certification Institute (NCCT/MMCI)
  • National Credentialing Agency (NCA)
  • National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
  • National Performance Specialists (NPS)

The exam itself generally consists of up to 300 questions and includes both a written and practical section in which you will be required to demonstrate your ability to draw blood, label samples, sanitize equipment, and more. 

Where Do Phlebotomists Work?

Phlebotomists can work in a variety of settings, including:

  1. Assisted living facilities
  2. Blood donation centers/organizations
  3. Blood drives
  4. Clinics
  5. Community health centers
  6. Doctor’s offices
  7. Emergency clinics
  8. Health maintenance organizations
  9. Hospitals
  10. Independent laboratories
  11. Medical and diagnostic laboratories
  12. Mobile donation centers
  13. Nursing homes
  14. Outpatient care centers
  15. Public health agencies
  16. Surgical centers
  17. VA clinics
  18. Women’s and Men’s health clinics

Phlebotomist Salary: How Much Do Phlebotomists Make? 

Becoming a phlebotomist offers many benefits, and one of the most tangible is the salary that a certified, experienced professional can earn.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for phlebotomists was $38,530 or $18.53 per hour as of May 2022. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,250, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $51,610.  But salaries can vary by a number of factors, including the type of organization you work for, the location, as well as your experience and education.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a phlebotomist is $37,568 a year or approximately $18.06 an hour. The majority of Phlebotomist salaries currently range between $30,000 (25th percentile) to $41,500 (75th percentile), with top earners (90th percentile) making $52,000 annually.

Phlebotomist Salaries by Place of Employment

According to the BLS, here’s what you can expect to earn as a phlebotomist at various types of workplaces.

  1. Outpatient care centers - $42,750
  2. Medical and diagnostic laboratories - $41,580
  3. Hospitals; state, local, and private - $37,400
  4. Offices of physicians - $36,970
  5. All other ambulatory healthcare services - $36,190

In some environments, phlebotomists are also eligible for job benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, and paid time off for vacations, personal time, and sick leave, and some may be eligible for tuition reimbursement as they pursue higher education.  

Highest Paying Cities for Phlebotomists

The demand for qualified phlebotomists is higher in metropolitan areas, and as a result, those allied healthcare professionals receive more generous compensation. The five top-paying metropolitan cities where phlebotomists can earn the highest salaries are: 

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA - $59,090
  2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA - $57,070
  3. Stockton-Lodi, CA - $55,100
  4. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA - $54,650
  5. Redding, CA - $54,530

Highest Paying States for Phlebotomists

What state you’re working in also impacts how much you can make as a phlebotomist. The highest-paying states for phlebotomists are:

  1. California - $50,470
  2. Massachusetts - $47,530
  3. District of Columbia - $47,160
  4. Washington - $47,090
  5. New York - $46,960

We Found The Following Schools with Online Phlebotomy Programs

What Is the Career Outlook for Phlebotomists?

There is a high demand for skilled phlebotomists, and that demand is expected to rise over the next several years, so you can feel confident in your ability to find stable positions in a wide range of work environments and hours. 

According to U.S. News and World Report, phlebotomy is ranked the fourth-best job that does not require a college degree and is ranked eighth among healthcare support jobs. When you combine that level of career satisfaction with the promise of job stability based on need, it’s no wonder that phlebotomy was named #40 in the 100 Best Jobs.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for phlebotomists is on the rise and is expected to grow by 8 percent over the next ten years. This is a reflection of the growing need for healthcare services, including in hospitals, blood banks, clinical laboratories, and physicians’ offices, as well as in a number of corporate settings. 

What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for Phlebotomists? 

Learning never stops, and as a Phlebotomist, it is important that you continue to expand on your knowledge of best practices within the field. 

Each state has its own regulations and requirements for continuing education, usually about six credit hours each year. 

These classes are offered at vocational schools and community colleges as well as online, and many phlebotomists return to the program where they first earned their credentials. In addition, the National Phlebotomy Association requires that you take courses and an exam in order to renew your certification.   

If you’re interested in phlebotomy, here are a few more resources and guides. 


We Found The Following Schools with Online Phlebotomy Programs

FAQs About Becoming a Phlebotomist

  • Is it worth it to become a Phlebotomist?

    • Phlebotomist salaries have been on the rise over the last several years, and in 2021 the median salary for the profession was $37,380. In addition to salary, phlebotomists may earn compensation in the form of benefits, and they get the additional reward of knowing that their work is contributing to patient care and wellbeing. Skilled phlebotomists who are able to calm patient anxieties and draw blood with minimal pain contribute to the trust of the healthcare system.
  • What does a Phlebotomist do?

    • Plebotomists are responsible for collecting patients’ blood for testing or for donation. The job involves far more than venipuncture: It also includes calming the patient, sanitizing equipment, and conducting quality control measures to ensure that the correct sample is being drawn and, once collected, that it is accurately labeled and stored.
  • What’s the difference between a Phlebotomist and a Phlebotomy Technician?

    • There is no difference between the two job titles. They are used interchangeably to describe professionals trained and responsible for the same tasks.
  •  Is it hard to get a job as a Phlebotomist?

    • There is a constant demand for certified phlebotomists, and once you have graduated from a certification program and passed your professional certification exam, you will likely find yourself with a wide selection of available opportunities.
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