How to Become a Phlebotomist
Reviewed By: Dr. Jan Olson
Phlebotomy is the act of drawing blood; it is done using a procedure known as a venipuncture. Phlebotomists draw blood from veins using sterilized needles and cannulas for purposes such as:
- Diagnostic Testing
- Intravenous (IV) Therapies
The diagnostic tool of blood analysis is an integral part of the medical care community, and quite valuable to diagnosticians and other medical personnel.
Phlebotomist Professional Responsibilities
Professional phlebotomists work in hospital settings, diagnostics clinics, ambulatory service companies, blood-donor programs, or other medical-related facilities. Phlebotomy patients hail from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds.
A phlebotomist’s duties typically include:
- Preparing patients for the venipuncture procedure
- Explaining the procedure
- Performing venipuncture
- Drawing blood using tubes or containers
- Identifying and utilizing correct tubes w/appropriate additives for specific lab analysis
- Educating patients on post-puncture wound care, among other duties
Those pursuing a phlebotomy career should consider that successful phlebotomists tend to exhibit the following traits –
- Being Compassionate – some patients experience great fear from blood or needles and require compassionate care to complete the procedure
- Possessing Dexterity – clean blood samples are vital to accurate diagnoses, safety first!
- A knack for details, among others
How to Become a Phlebotomist
Phlebotomists typically enroll and complete phlebotomy training programs that are offered by community colleges, professional organizations, and vocational schools. Phlebotomy training programs offer traditional classroom learning (regarding procedures, the law, and safety), plus an experiential, clinical section where students develop professional venipuncture skills (blood withdrawal & collection) by practicing on each other.
How Long does it Take to Become a Phlebotomist?
The exact amount of time it takes to become a phlebotomist varies, but most students complete a training program (and meet the certification requirements) in under 12 months. Some phlebotomy training programs can be completed in as little as a few months!
The first step to becoming a professional phlebotomist is to enroll in a phlebotomy training program from a local vocational school, community college, or other medical teaching facilities. Requirements for enrolling in a post-secondary vocation program include a high school diploma (or GED, or equivalent), a pre-set Grade Point Average (GPA) during high school tenure (Check for state requirements)
Classroom and lab work/clinical work are essential components of a phlebotomy program’s curriculum. Each program’s admission requirements will likely differ but will likely require a minimum of -
- A High school diploma or GED (or its equivalent)
- An established minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) while attending high school
- Immunization records, among others
At present, there are no nationally recognized certifications or certificate programs for phlebotomy students reaching for a career as a phlebotomist. Each state sets forth its own phlebotomy training requirements; therefore, students are advised to confirm that the training program they have selected meets their state's requirements before enrolling.
Several states (Washington, Louisiana, Nevada & California) have set forth tougher phlebotomist requirements for practitioners working in those states. This, it is noted, may require additional time to start working professionally. Students are advised to confirm their state’s certification/licensing requirements to determine how long it will take to become a phlebotomist in that particular state.
National certification is not typically required for employment, although national certification can be beneficial in finding work as a phlebotomist. It is noted that students choosing to sit for the national certification exam must do so within a pre-established timeframe, starting from the date they completed the phlebotomy training program.
Preparing for Phlebotomy Certification
To help students optimize their performance on the phlebotomy certification tests, there are many helpful practice tests and resources online, free of charge.
To get a start on preparing for your exam, see Test-Guide.com's Phlebotomy Practice Tests.
Students are advised that these practice questions are a prudent way to best prepare for the certification examinations.
Phlebotomy Certification Test Accreditation
Many vocational schools, community colleges, and medical-education facilities offer phlebotomy training courses that prepare students to sit for the various phlebotomy certifications. However, students are encouraged to seek out those phlebotomy training programs that have received accreditation by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences accredits more than 50 phlebotomy training programs through the United States. Essentially, accreditation indicates that the training program has met the agency’s accreditation criteria.
Each phlebotomy certification exam requires that students pay a testing fee; however, testing fees vary and are set by the agency administering the phlebotomy certification test.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP Phlebotomy)
The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers a Phlebotomy Technician Certification (PTC) test when a student passes the ASCP Phlebotomy Technician Test.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology’s test consists of 80 multiple-choice questions that assess the test taker's knowledge in six content areas. Test takers of the PTC exam have 120 minutes to complete all questions.
These six content areas include –
- Handling, Transport, and Processing of blood specimen
- Appropriate Specimen Collection Procedures
- The Circulatory System
- Laboratory Operations & Procedures
- Waived & Point-of-Care Testing (POCT)
- Non-Blood Specimen Knowledge
The Association of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT)
The Association of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) offers a professional Phlebotomy Technician Certification (PTC) that is granted to certification candidates after they have passed the ASPT exam.
Certification candidates must meet the following eligibility requirements to sit for the Association of Phlebotomy Technicians’ the exam –
- Complete an accredited phlebotomy technician training program. The training program must include a minimum of 75 verified venipunctures/ and five verified skin punctures.
- A minimum of ½ year working full-time as a phlebotomist or one year working part-time as a phlebotomist, or
- A supervisory letter explaining that the certification candidate will be taking blood as a regular daily task.
- Current membership in the Association of Phlebotomy Technicians organization
The ASPT mandates its members to earn a minimum of at least six hours of continuing education per year to maintain active certification status.
The American Medical Technologists (AMT Phlebotomy)
The American Medical Technologists Phlebotomy Technician Exam is offered by the American Medical Technologists (AMT) organization. The American Medical Technologists Phlebotomy Technician Exam requires the completion of 200 questions that assesses a test taker’s knowledge of the following phlebotomy areas of study –
- Blood Specimen Collection & Processing Skills
- Terminology regarding Physiology & Anatomy
- Communication Abilities
- Administrative Skills
- Safety Standards & Procedures
- Time Management & Assignment Organization Skills
- Legal & Ethical Considerations
The phlebotomy certification test administered by the American Medical Technologists Phlebotomy Technician Exam requires certification candidates to have verification of the successful completion of 50 venipunctures and another ten capillary insertions.
Those who hold an American Medical Technologists (AMT) certification indicate that they are professional phlebotomists who have been vetted by a neutral, independent agency and are dedicated to providing quality services throughout their daily responsibilities.
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT/MMCI Phlebotomy)
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT/MMCI) operates as an independent, neutral credentialing professional organization. The National Center for Competency Testing’s exam consists of 125 questions that assess the test taker's knowledge in four broad areas of study relevant to phlebotomy skills and knowledge. The NCCT/MMCI examination has a time limit of three hours. Test questions cover the study areas of –
- Patient ID & Site Preparation
- Professional service
- Quality care
- Appropriate safety precautions
- Proper infection control
- Orders & Equipment Selection
The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA Phlebotomy)
The American Medical Certification Association (AMCA) Phlebotomy Technician Exam Certification consists of 100 questions to assess a test taker’s knowledge and skill-levels in five study areas. Test takers are given 120 minutes to finish the exam.
- Safety & Infection Control
- Appropriate Patient Care
- Patient Identification
- Site Preparation Knowledge
- Specimen Collection/Processing
- Proper Order Management
The phlebotomy certification test administered by the AMCA requires certification candidates to have completed an accredited program and to have verification of the successful completion of 30 venipunctures and another ten capillary insertions.
It is essential to highlight that while certification may require additional work (and perhaps time), the attainment of these certifications will likely result in career benefits.
Phlebotomy Certification Test Fees
Typically, each certification exam requires the payment of an exam fee to the organization administering the test. Students are advised to confirm the phlebotomy certification testing fee with the agency giving the certification.
Phlebotomy Continuing Education Requirements
Phlebotomy certifications require continuing education classes; however, the amount of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) required to maintain certification will vary and be based on the professional agency that issued the certificate.
Occupational Outlook for Phlebotomists
In 2018, there were more than 128,000 phlebotomists working in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in the same calendar year, a professional phlebotomist earned –
- A Median Salary of $34,480 per annum – this translates to $16.58 per hour.
The states with the highest paying yearly salaries for phlebotomists are as follows –
- California - $45,030
- Alaska - $42,290
- Washington, DC - $41,600
- New York - $40,630
- Massachusetts - $39,970
For more salary information, see our guide to Phlebotomist Salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reveals impressive growth rate predictions for the field of phlebotomy. Government statisticians anticipate that the demand growth rate for professional phlebotomists through 2018 will be 23% - this is an amazing employment growth rate (and good news for those seeking a career as a professional phlebotomist) and nearly three times the average growth rate of all combined US industries (~8%).