If you’re looking for a hands-on career in healthcare and you want to start quickly, becoming a Phlebotomist may 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.
Ready to learn if a career in phlebotomy is right for you? Keep reading!
Part One What Is a Phlebotomist?
A Phlebotomist is an allied health care professional who has been educated and trained in all aspects of venipuncture (AKA procedures involving drawing blood) and the processes surrounding it.
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 being collected so that it can be used 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.
Part Two What Does a Phlebotomist Do?
A phlebotomist’s primary job is to collect blood in response to orders issued by health care professionals or for donation. But in preparation for doing that, their responsibilities also include making sure that all of the equipment used in the process is sanitized and that adequate supplies exist.
After identifying their patient and ensuring that the sample being taken matches the test ordered, they work to put the patient at ease despite frequent episodes of anxiety, fear, and even hostility.
Throughout this process, phlebotomists are tasked with maintaining safety protocols that are there for their own safety as well as the safety of their patients.
Their job responsibilities may include:
- Reviewing their daily appointments in order to have all supplies necessary to meet patient needs
- Confirming patient identities and personal information
- Recording pertinent information and obtaining patient authorizations for insurance purposes
- Reassuring patients and explaining the process
- Identifying the correct venipuncture method for the patient based on age, health condition, and more
- Identify optimal draw site for puncture
- Collect blood using sterilized needles, vials, and other equipment
- Assist with blood transfusions
- Label samples and store for delivery to testing site or blood bank
- Adhere to all health and safety standards
The patients that phlebotomists work with range from pediatrics to geriatrics, and in all cases the phlebotomist strives to perform their job responsibilities while keeping their patients calm and comfortable.
While most patients are at ease, many patients will be fearful, anxious, in pain, or unable to understand what is happening to them. They may become agitated or angry, and a phlebotomist needs to be able to remain composed.
Part Three Where Do Phlebotomists Work?
Phlebotomists can work in a variety of settings, including:
- Community health centers
- Doctor’s offices
- nursing homes
- blood donation centers
- surgical centers
- As traveling healthcare professionals who go to patients’ homes to draw blood for home health agencies and for insurance companies
Part Four 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 $35,510 as of May 2019. But salaries can vary by a number of factors in including the type of organization you work for, the location, as well as your experience and education.
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.
- Outpatient care centers - $41,620
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories - $37,220
- All other ambulatory healthcare services - $34,460
- Offices of physicians - $34,400
- Hospitals; state, local, and private - $33,720
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 cities where phlebotomists can earn the highest salaries are:
- Salinas, California - $58,610
- San Francisco, California - $54,040
- Redding, California - $52,310
- San Diego, California - $50,610
- Santa Rosa, California - $50,300
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:
- California - $45,940
- District of Columbia - $43,820
- New York - $42,950
- Alaska - $42,100
- Washington - $41,380
Part Five How Do You 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:
- 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 Phlebotomy Certification Examination (NPCE)
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.
Part Six 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 health care 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 17 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.
Part Seven 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.
Part Eight Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Phlebotomist?
Phlebotomy is a rewarding field and the work that phlebotomists perform is invaluable. They are ambassadors for healthcare, offering compassion, calm and competence and facilitating the diagnoses of illness and analysis of health status.
There are many resources available to provide you with more information, including:
- National Phlebotomy Association
- American Society for Clinical Pathology
- American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians
- American Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
Part Nine 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 2019 the median salary for the profession was $35,510. 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?
- Phlebotomists 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, 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.
Part Ten Related Healthcare Careers
If you’re interested in phlebotomy, you may be interested in learning more about these other healthcare careers too! Check out some of our other healthcare articles and career guides.
- Fast Pathways Into a Healthcare Career
- Guide to Becoming a Medical Assistant
- How to Start a Career in Medical Billing & Coding
- Top Entry-Level Healthcare Administration Careers