How to Become Certified in the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory

March 22, 2023

Microbiologists working in clinical or public health laboratories can become certified to show they have the required knowledge and preparation to work in a microbiology laboratory. In this episode of Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory, Kristie Johnson, Ph.D., D(ABMM) and guest, Susan Harrington, Ph.D., D(ABMM), discuss how to become certified in medical laboratory science. Johnson is professor of pathology and medical director of clinical microbiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center. Harrington is the Medical Director of Clinical Microbiology at Cleveland Clinic and the Chair of the American Society of Clinical Pathology’s (ASCP) Workforce Steering Committee and former Chair of the ASCP Board of Certification Board of Governors.  

Key Takeaways from the Episode

  • Healthcare facilities should have certified medical laboratory professionals, as certification shows that these professionals have the required preparation to work in a microbiology laboratory.
  • Although not required by all healthcare facilities, individuals should seek certifications (like ASCP’s) to have a better understanding of clinical microbiology. Individuals can seek certification in laboratory medicine. This includes all areas of the laboratory or specific certification, including microbiology.  
  • ASCP, the most common certification, offers about 25 certification exams covering the whole spectrum of medical laboratory professions, from phlebotomists and medical laboratory assistants with entry level education, to medical laboratory technicians (MLTs), who perform testing with an associate degree, and medical laboratory scientists (MLSs), who hold a bachelor’s degree. Learn more about ASCP certification routes.
  • There are many routes an individual can take to become certified. On-the-job training is the most popular route, although this takes more time than other routes. One can also obtain certification, through a certified college or university.  
  • Once certified, a microbiologist needs to keep their credentials up to date. Certifications need to be renewed every 3 years, which can be accomplished by participating in continuing education. This can include registering for professional development webinars, attending conferences and reading journal articles, among other activities.

ASM Can Help Individuals Become Certified

ASM, in partnership with Weber State University (WSU), offers the ASM-WSU Microbiology Certificate Program–an education and training opportunity for individuals looking to advance their career in a medical laboratory profession. 

This 4-course, independent study program is an affordable and efficient option for individuals who have a bachelor's degree in a qualifying field (e.g., biological science or chemistry) to qualify to take the Technologist in Microbiology M(ASCP) certification examination from the ASCP.
Apply for the Program
Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory Scientist is a twice-quarterly discussion on career advancement in clinical and public health laboratories. Members of ASM’s Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) will invite guests from clinical and public health microbiology laboratories to discuss topics specific to the laboratory. The CMMS’ goal is to help others learn more about the profession and advance their careers in the clinical or public health microbiology laboratory.

The CMMS provides career advancement activities for those new to the field of clinical or public health microbiology. Its roster of mentors is available to answer any career advancement questions you have.

Author: ASM Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee

ASM Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee
ASM's Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) provides career and networking advice to those looking to advance in clinical and public health microbiology.

Author: J. Kristie Johnson, Ph.D., D(ABMM)

J. Kristie Johnson, Ph.D., D(ABMM)
J. Kristie Johnson is currently the Medical Director of Microbiology for the University of Maryland Medical Center in downtown Baltimore.