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Clinical Laboratory Science / Medical Technology

The Role of the Medical Laboratory Scientist in Healthcare

A medical laboratory scientist (MLS), formerly known as a medical technologist (MT) or clinical laboratory scientist (CLS), functions as a medical detective, performing laboratory tests that provide physicians with information that assists them in preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases and maintaining patient wellness.
The medical laboratory scientist performs a wide variety of laboratory tests, ranging from simple dipstick urine tests to complex DNA tests that help physicians assess risk of diseases. Using test results, physicians can uncover diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, infections and many other diseases.
Medical laboratory scientists interact with physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other members of the healthcare team to provide timely, accurate information so the patient can receive the correct medical treatment.

Medical laboratory scientists use sophisticated biomedical instruments and technology, microscopes, complex electronic equipment, computers, and methods requiring manual dexterity to perform tests on blood, body fluids, and tissue specimens. Clinical laboratory testing sections include clinical chemistry, hematology, Immunohematology (Blood Bank), immunology, microbiology and molecular diagnostics.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center Medical Laboratory Science Program Overview

The 50-week certificate program begins the first week of January and accepts a maximum of twelve students each year. The clinical year includes intensive classroom instruction and extensive clinical laboratory experience. Students acquire intellectual skills to help them understand disease processes and gain proficiency in laboratory testing, so they can provide physicians with necessary information to diagnose and treat their patients. MLS students learn to perform laboratory tests in each clinical section, using automated and manual testing methods.

The program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.  

Program Mission
The mission of the University of Tennessee Medical Center Clinical Laboratory Science program is to recruit, educate, and prepare highly competent medical laboratory scientists to serve their patients and the healthcare profession while demonstrating high ethical and moral standards and the utmost in technical competence.

Program Vision
The University of Tennessee Medical Center Clinical Laboratory Science program is committed to improving the quality of life of those we serve by being one of the leading programs in the state, with recognition of graduates for leadership, compassion and clinical expertise.

Program Philosophy
The philosophy of the University of Tennessee Medical Center Clinical Laboratory Science program is that medical laboratory scientists, as essential members of the health care team, provide a valuable diagnostic service to physicians. We believe that the patient is an individual member of society with rights and privileges, worthy of respect regardless of sex, race, creed, national origin or socioeconomic status.

Program Goals
The goals of the University of Tennessee Medical Center Clinical Laboratory Science program are to

  • Provide conscientious, caring, skilled medical laboratory scientists who are highly capable of comprehending, practicing and furthering medical laboratory science, while meeting healthcare needs in the region.
  • Uphold and promote the academic standards of the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), the State of Tennessee Medical Laboratory Board and the University of Tennessee.
  • Provide an appropriate combination of didactic and clinical experiences so that the students will develop competency in the skills needed to meet challenges of the profession.
  • Provide a stimulating atmosphere for students, faculty and laboratory staff to promote the desire for learning and the development of new knowledge to respond to changing demands of the profession.
  • Maintain a source of professionals who participate in bringing new knowledge to the clinical laboratories through research and continuing education.
  • Develop graduates with the capacity to participate in leadership roles in education and management.
  • Promote interest in the growth of medical laboratory science as a profession.

It is only through clinical experience, with gradual reduction of supervision, that students develop the ability to organize work, make judgments and evaluations, handle problems and embrace professional responsibility. It is the obligation of the student to attain and maintain the expected competency in all areas pertinent to medical laboratory science.

Background Requirements

There are two paths to admission into the UT Medical Center MLS / CLS program.

  1. Undergraduate students
    The 3 + 1 program involves 3 years (91 credit hours) of study in the University of Tennessee College of Arts and Sciences, plus 50 weeks of training in medical laboratory science at UT Medical Center. Students who fulfill all requirements of the university and the CLS/MLS program will receive a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in clinical laboratory science. For the University of Tennessee clinical laboratory science undergraduate program description and background requirements, click here.
  2. Students with a baccalaureate (or higher) degree
    A 4+1 option is available to graduates who have a baccalaureate degree in a biological, chemical, or physical science field. The applicant must have completed 16 semester hours of biology (including a microbiology course with a laboratory, immunology, and anatomy/physiology), 16 semester hours of chemistry (including general chemistry and either organic or biochemistry) and 3 semester hours of math at a level of college algebra or higher. For complete 4 + 1 student requirements, click here.

Students must complete all required preparatory coursework with a grade of "C" (not "C-") or higher prior to beginning the MLS program.

Application Information

Admission into the program is competitive. Meeting the minimum criteria or being admitted into the University of Tennessee does not guarantee admission into the program.

To be considered for admission into the program beginning in January, all application materials, along with a $25 nonrefundable application fee, must be received in the UT Medical Center CLS Program Office by May 15 of the previous year. Applicants meeting the admission requirements will be invited to interview with the Admissions Committee. All interviews are completed by June 30. Students are notified of their admission status by July 15.

University of Tennessee 3+1 students must complete all prerequisite requirements as specified by the university. In addition, they must fulfill all UT graduation requirements to qualify for a B.S. degree upon completion of the CLS certificate program at UT Medical Center.

4 + 1 students are eligible to apply if they have completed or will have completed a B.A. or B.S. in a biological, chemical, or physical science before the program begins, and meet all academic prerequisite requirements of the program.

Click here for the program application packet, including a checklist and all forms.

Selection Process

Following the May 15 application deadline, the Admissions Committee reviews all applications. The program director schedules all qualified applicants for interviews with the committee. The Admissions Committee considers the following criteria when reviewing applications and selecting the class:

  • Cumulative and Science GPA
  • Type and difficulty of courses taken
  • Courses taken that are not required but are recommended
  • Work experience, especially in a healthcare field
  • Volunteer and extra-curricular activities in healthcare-related fields
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Essay
  • Interview
  • Knowledge of and familiarity with the profession
  • Commitment to the profession

Acceptance letters are sent by July 15. Each student accepted into the program must accept or decline the offered position in writing by July 31, accompanied by a nonrefundable $250 admissions fee to secure his or her position in the program. Application eligibility does not guarantee acceptance.

Clinical Laboratory Experience During the Program

Students experience individualized instruction in the clinical laboratory at UT Medical Center. The state-of-the art laboratory, managed by Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp), is the largest clinical laboratory in the East Tennessee region. With an extensive test menu, the laboratory reports an average of two million billable laboratory tests every year to help diagnose and treat patients in a seventeen-county region in East Tennessee. Students work one-on-one with experienced instructors in the clinical laboratory to gain valuable knowledge and experience performing a wide variety of tests. For more information about LabCorp, click here.


The MLS program employs a full-time program director and one part-time instructor. In addition, highly-skilled medical laboratory scientists, laboratory supervisors and managers instruct students in the classroom and clinical laboratory, providing them with an exceptional level of personalized instruction and clinical expertise. For a list of the faculty, click here.

Certification and Licensure

Students who complete the UT Medical Center certificate program have the knowledge and clinical experience to become medical laboratory scientists. Upon receipt of their certificate, students are eligible to sit for the American Society for Clinical Pathology national board examination to become board-certified as medical laboratory scientists. After successful completion of the state-recognized national certification exam and completion of all State of Tennessee application materials, the graduate can receive a license from State of Tennessee Medical Laboratory Board through its Department of Public Health.

Granting of the B.S degree or CLS / MLS Certificate of Completion is not contingent upon successful completion of the national board examination.

Job Outlook

Medical laboratory scientists are currently in demand across the nation. Graduates of the medical laboratory science program at UT Medical Center will find career opportunities in medical centers, independent laboratories hospitals, regional blood centers, research laboratories, blood centers, state and national government laboratories, and university programs. Faster-than-average job growth is expected as current medical laboratory scientists retire and as the population ages, increasing the need for skilled laboratory scientists. For job descriptions, earnings data, and the job outlook for medical laboratory scientists, go to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The program has an exceptional job placement rate. Since 2007, the UT Medical Center Medical Laboratory Science Program boasts a 100% job placement rate within three months of completion of the program.

Professional Organizations:

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the following sources: 

LeeAnne Briggs, MPH,MLS(ASCP)
Program Director, CLS Program
University of Tennessee Medical Center
1924 Alcoa Highway
Knoxville, TN 37920

Mary Anne Hoskins, MS
Associate Director
Arts and Science Advising Services
313 Ayres Hall
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37998-1325 

Dr. Jeff Becker, PhD
Head, Microbiology Department
Walters Life Science Building, F339
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-0845

American Society of Clinical Pathologists
P.O. Box 4872
Chicago, IL 60880

Suite 720
5600 N. River Road
Rosemont IL 60018