Climbing the Clinical Laboratory Scientist Career Ladder

March 21, 2022

You’ve graduated with a degree in microbiology…now what?

If you’re a new college graduate with a degree in microbiology, or a related science, you might be interested in working in a clinical microbiology laboratory! The rewarding field of clinical and public health microbiology provides many opportunities for personal and professional growth and is currently experiencing significant workforce shortages. Learn more about the opportunities available in this month’s Career Conversations for the Medical and Public Health Laboratory Scientist.

Join Phyu Thwe, Ph.D., D(ABMM), MLS(ASCP)CM, Microbiology Technical Director, Allina Health Laboratory, as she provides tips for climbing the clinical microbiology laboratory career ladder, and guests Kurt Jude, M(ASCP)CM, Quality Management Coordinator, Division of Clinical Microbiology, Mayo Clinic and Kristy Lindsey, MT(AMT), Microbiology Laboratory Manager, Baystate Health share personal accounts of how they began and advanced their clinical microbiology laboratory careers.

American Society for Microbiology · Career Conversations March 2022

What Inspired These Scientists to Work in the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory?

Kristy Lindsey with Poster
Kristy Lindsey, MT(AMT)
Source: American Society for Microbiology
Though Lindsey enjoyed watching the movie "The Andromeda Strain" in middle school, she credits her career in microbiology to a program she participated in during college. Lindsey knew that she wanted to join the medical field but wasn't sure what specific career options were available. During an exploratory program about different medical professions, Lindsey’s anatomy and physiology professor noticed her interest in working with a microscope and suggested that Lindsey further investigate the college's clinical microbiology laboratory program.

However, Jude wasn’t quite sure which path he wanted to take after college and joined the clinical microbiology laboratory upon a suggestion from a friend. Jude’s most influential introduction to the field was the movie "Outbreak." 

Clinical Microbiology Laboratory Career Ladder

Lindsey and Jude’s experiences illustrate that there are a variety of ways to advance in the field of clinical laboratory science.

After obtaining her associate's degree, Lindsey began her career in the clinical laboratory, interning at Baystate Health and working as a medical laboratory technologist (MLT). As an MLT, she worked on the third shift (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) as a generalist, with a focus on hematology, microbiology and chemistry. After 5 years, Lindsey transitioned to strictly working in microbiology, with a focus on infectious disease (ID) serology. Lindsey’s experience has provided her with a broad base of microbiology and ID testing knowledge. Recently, Lindsey became a microbiology laboratory manager at Baystate Health.
Kurt Jude in Lab
Kurt Jude, M(ASCP)CM
Source: American Society for Microbiology

Jude got his first taste of microbiology through an internship in food microbiology. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in biotechnology, he became a bench technologist at the Mayo Clinic. Within 2 years, he was promoted to quality specialist at the Mayo Clinic. From there, Jude worked as a clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) at Allina Health and became a microbiology lead. After 6 years at Allina Health, Jude returned to the Mayo Clinic as a quality management coordinator.

Non-Traditional Pathways to a Career in the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory

The traditional pathway to joining the clinical microbiology laboratory is by obtaining the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s (ASCP) medical laboratory scientist certification, MLS(ASCP)CM, and luckily, there are many ways to become credentialed (including through an ASM program).

Some employers offer educational opportunities to their staff. After graduating college, Jude was hired at the Mayo Clinic, which gave him access to an online class in clinical microbiology at the University of North Dakota. The class was supplemented with clinical work at the bench at the Mayo Clinic. This pathway allowed him to fully focus on microbiology and advance his career, while preparing to take his certification exam. Following the program, Jude sat for (and passed) his M(ASCP)CM certification.

The ASM-Weber State University Microbiology Certificate Program offers another route by which medical laboratory scientists can become ASCP certified. The course includes 4 online classes and a 4-week rotation in the clinical laboratory, with a focus on microbiology. Graduates of the certificate program qualify to sit for ASCP’s technologist certification, M(ASCP). Lindsey has seen multiple medical laboratory scientists use this program to qualify for the ASCP exam.

No matter what pathway is chosen, becoming credentialed and working in a clinical microbiology laboratory provide rewarding career opportunities in which one can make an impact and thrive professionally.

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 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 questions you have on career advancement.

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: Phyu M. Thwe, Ph.D., D(ABMM), MLS(ASCP)CM

Phyu M. Thwe, Ph.D., D(ABMM), MLS(ASCP)CM
Phyu M. Thwe, Ph.D., is associate director, infectious disease testing at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor, department of pathology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.