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Online Bachelor’s in Medical Laboratory Science (MLT-to-MLS) Completion Degree Programs

Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLSs) are clinical healthcare professionals trained to conduct biomedical tests on blood, tissue, and other human specimens. The crucial work performed by MLSs, who may also be referred to as Clinical Laboratory Scientists (CLSs) or Medical Technologists (MTs), helps doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals monitor patient health, diagnose illness, and determine treatment protocols. MLSs are typically employed in laboratories housed within pathology departments at clinics, hospitals, and medical centers, and at other facilities where medical tests are performed. They are trained to properly handle biological specimens, maintain and calibrate laboratory equipment, conduct various testing procedures, and communicate test results to relevant medical staffers, such as attending nurses and physicians.

Most employers and 11 states require CLSs to hold a bachelor’s degree, professional certification, and a minimum of one year of clinical experience as a medical laboratory assistant (MLA), a medical laboratory technician (MLT), or a student intern in a medical laboratory. Earning a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science has become one of the more common ways to receive the training and instruction necessary to prepare for MLS certification and a career as an MLS.

What Is a Bachelor’s in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) Degree?

An MLS bachelor’s degree is a four-year undergraduate degree that provides professional training and academic instruction in clinical chemistry, microbiology, hematology, immunology, bacteriology, virology, medical laboratory procedures, and other areas that are integral to the practice of medical laboratory science. These programs typically incorporate a year of internship experiences. Some programs do so by providing students with three years of classes followed by a year of clinical internships (also known as a 3+1 structure), while others have students complete two years of lower division coursework followed by two years in which they take upper division courses while completing clinical internships (i.e., 2+2 structure).

A secondary component of an MLS bachelor’s program involves general education coursework in a broad range of subjects outside of the MLS major. This commonly includes courses in English composition and literature, U.S. and/or world history, social science, physical science, and mathematics. General education requirements vary by school and by program, and it is common for bachelor’s programs to allot a certain number of additional credits to elective courses outside of a student’s major. While the distribution of credits varies by program, general education and elective coursework can comprise more than half of the credits required to earn a bachelor’s degree. For example, a 120-credit MLS bachelor’s program might require students to complete 75 general education and elective credits and 45 credits in the MLS major.

What Is an MLS Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program?

In contrast to traditional, eight-semester MLS bachelor’s programs, MLS bachelor’s completion programs offer medical laboratory technicians (MLTs) who hold an associate degree in medial technology or a related field with the equivalent of four semesters of upper-division coursework, practicums, and internships. This allows MLTs to earn a bachelor’s in MLS degree without having to repeat coursework from their associate degree program. These programs may be referred to as MLT-to-MLS or AS-to-BS programs, as they are designed to provide graduates from MLT Associate of Science (AS) programs with a convenient pathway to complete a Bachelor of Science (BS) in MLS program, a process the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) refers to as “MLT-to-MLS articulation.” The ASCLS is a professional organization that sets industry standards for CLS practitioners.

Students who qualify for an MLS completion program generally begin the program with half or more of the credits required to earn their degree. For example, a 120-credit MLT-to-MLS completion program may require students entering the program to have a minimum of 60 transferable credits and may allow students to transfer as many 68 or more college credits, depending on the program. Transferable credits can encompass general education coursework, such as English composition, algebra, psychology, and history classes, as well as MLS prerequisites, such as biochemistry, biology, chemistry, microbiology, and organic chemistry. MLT-to-MLS completion programs may also credit students with a certain number of internship hours based on their prior work experience and on the number of clinical hours completed as part of their associate degree program. This is another factor that can shorten the time it takes to earn a MLS bachelor’s degree in a completion program.

Online MLT-to-MLS Bachelor’s Completion Programs

An online MLT-to-MLS bachelor’s completion program is a bachelor’s program that allows associate program-trained MLTs to finish their MLS degree coursework online through the use of distance learning technologies. Students in an online MLT-to-MLS completion program are able to complete their academic and clinical training without having to travel regularly to a campus for classes. Online programs deliver their didactic instruction using learning management system (LMSs), a general term for interactive platforms that facilitate virtual classroom instruction by streaming lectures, hosting discussion forums, and allowing students to access coursework and other educational materials via the Internet.

Most online programs then allow students to complete their in-person clinical training at a local site approved by the program. Students who are already working in a medical laboratory may be able to complete most or all of the clinical requirements at their place of work. However, prospective applicants to an online MLT-to-MLS bachelor’s completion program should check with a program administrator regarding practicum and internship sites prior to submitting an application to ensure that a convenient site can be found, as some programs may not allow students to complete these requirements at their current place of employment.

How Identifies and Classifies Online Bachelor’s in MLS Completion Programs

Through independent research of online degree programs, identifies online programs accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) that provide MLTs with the bachelor’s level training and instruction necessary to become an MLS. To be listed on the site, an online MLT-to-MLS program must also be offered by a regionally accredited, non-profit college or university and offer all or most of its didactic coursework online. Programs that require students to attend more than two campus-based sessions per year are considered hybrid programs and are not included on the site.

Programs that are classified as online MLT-to-MLS bachelor’s completion programs include programs with the following designations:

  • Online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Medical Laboratory Science
  • Online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Clinical Laboratory Science
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Health Science (BSHS) in Medical Laboratory Science
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Applied Science (BSAS) in Medical Laboratory Science

What Students Learn in Online MLT-to-MLS Bachelor’s Completion Programs

A bachelor’s completion program generally includes the equivalent of four or five full-time semesters of upper-division coursework and clinical experiences in medical laboratory science. The core MLS coursework that comprises a bachelor’s-level curriculum in medical laboratory science covers a range of scientific topics, including biochemistry, bacteriology, hematology, immunology, molecular diagnostics, serology, mycology, parasitology, toxicology, and virology, as well as professional writing proficiencies, medical terminology, and laboratory management skills. Students in these programs also learn about blood banking, laboratory information systems, and laboratory quality control procedures.

In addition, MLS students study legal and ethical aspects of medical laboratory science and receive in-depth training in various types of medical testing procedures in preparation for the various professional certifications offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Medical Technologists (AMT) association, and the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB).

As part of an online MLT-to-MLS bachelor’s completion program, students may also be required to take several general education courses in order to fulfill the credits required to earn a bachelor’s degree. Finally, most online MLT-to-MLS completion programs include one or more practicums or internships that provide students with an opportunity to apply what they are learning in the program in a supervised clinical setting.

Online Bachelor’s in Medical Laboratory Science Courses

The table below offers a representative overview of the types of courses students are commonly required to complete as part of the core curriculum in an MLT-to-MLS program.

Course TitleCourse Description
Clinical Laboratory OperationsAn overview of clinical laboratory operations and management with an emphasis on quality control measures and the pre-analytical, analytical, and post-analytical components of blood, urine, and bodily fluid testing.
Molecular DiagnosticsMolecular testing and its application in hematology, immunology, hemostasis, forensic science, and transplantation immunology.
Clinical Laboratory ComputationsStatistical and mathematical concepts applied to the practice of laboratory science, including sample size protocols, quality-control assessments, and instrument calibration techniques.
Clinical MicrobiologyPrinciples of microbiology applied to various medical diagnostic practices, including the collection of specimens, testing specimens to identify disease causation, and the handling of bacteria and viruses.
Clinical BiochemistryMethodologies for the chemical analysis of human blood and other biological specimens.
Concepts in ImmunodiagnosticsClinical immunology and its application in medical science, including examination of immune cells, the immune system, and autoimmune diseases.
Infectious DiseaseThe pathogenesis and epidemiology of infectious microorganisms and the identification and diagnosis of infectious disease through clinical laboratory testing.
HematologyA comprehensive study of the morphological and biochemical aspects of blood formation, blood testing, and the identification of disease and illness in blood samples.
ImmunohematologyAn examination of blood antigens and antibodies in relation to blood typing, transfusion medicine, and the preparation and storage of blood products.
Parasitology & MycologyThe principles and clinical practices of diagnosing parasitic and fungal infections.
Writing in the Health SciencesAn overview of medical terminology and professional writing and communication in medicine.
Ethics for Laboratory MedicineAn examination of regulations pertaining to medical laboratory operations and the ethical concerns for medical laboratory professionals, including patient privacy and informed consent.

Admissions to Online MLT-to-MLS Bachelor’s Completion Programs

Applicants to online MLT-to-MLS programs typically must hold an associate degree in medical technology or a related field in addition to a high school diploma or the equivalent. Most programs require applicants to hold a Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certification issued by one of the three recognized credentialing organizations in the field of medical laboratory science: ASCP, AMT, or AAB. MLTs who received their training in the U.S. military may also be eligible to apply for admission to an online MLT-to-MLS bachelor’s completion program. Some programs may prefer or require applicants to have one or more years of work experience in a medical laboratory.

In addition to submitting high school and college transcripts and proof of certification, applicants may be asked to furnish one or more letters of recommendation and/or a written statement of purpose. Finally, these programs generally require applicants to have a certain number of transferrable college credits and some programs may have a list of courses that applicants are expected to have taken prior to admission. Applicants may also be expected to have a minimum cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 2.5, 3.0, or higher in prior academic work.

Online MLT-to-MLS Program Formats

MLTs who are considering online MLS bachelor’s programs may want to consider several key structural elements that can impact the online learning experience and affect the relative convenience of an online bachelor’s program. For example, there are two basic online instructional delivery modes: synchronous instruction, which takes place in real-time; and asynchronous instruction, which does not have a real-time component. As noted above, some online programs require students to attend a limited number of campus-based sessions, which requires travel, while others do not. The sections below provide further information about variations in format among online programs in three critical areas: instructional methods; enrollment options; and campus visits.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: The mode instruction utilized by an online program helps determine the degree of flexibility and structure that the program provides. Synchronous instruction is analogous to traditional classroom learning in that it requires students to log on to a program’s LMS for regularly scheduled live lectures and discussions that are held at specific times. Asynchronous instruction is an instruction method that allows students to view lectures and complete other course activities at their convenience, 24-7. Synchronous instruction provides more structure than asynchronous instruction and may be preferable for students who like having scheduled classes at designated times. Asynchronous instruction provides more flexibility than synchronous instruction, but it does require students be more self-motivated in order to keep up with lectures and other assignments by set due dates.

Full-Time Enrollment vs. Part-Time Enrollment: An online MLT-to-MLS completion program will typically incorporate the equivalent of two years or four semesters of coursework and internships for students who are enrolled full-time. However, many online programs offer part-time and/or flexible enrollment options in order to accommodate students who intend to continue working while earning their degree. Part-time enrollment allows students to take fewer courses per term, thereby extending the time to completion by a semester or more, depending on how many credits a student is able to earn per semester. Some programs have a set sequence of courses for full-time and/or part-time students, while others have flexible enrollment plans that allow students to choose the number of courses they take per term provided they complete the degree requirements within a certain number of years.

Campus Visits: In addition to internships and practicums that students complete at sites approve by the program, some but not all online MLT-to-MLS completion program require students to attend a limited number of on-campus learning sessions. These sessions may include orientations, lectures, labs, and other instructional activities. Most campus visits last two to three days to a week and they are commonly scheduled during summer sessions. While these visits often included both academic and non-academic activities, and can be a valuable addition to an online program, they do require students to travel and, therefore, may not be ideal for all students. Students who would prefer not to have to travel to campus during their program should find programs that can be completed entirely online (with the exception of any required in-person clinical hours).